Ministry in charge of penitentiary system said it opened an internal probe into allegations leveled by former interior minister and ex-PM Vano Merabishvili, who is now in pre-trial detention, claiming that he was unlawfully taken from his prison cell for a meeting with chief prosecutor.
The Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance said in a statement on December 23 that “pursuant to high public interest”, as well as to a request filed by Merabishvili’s lawyers, the ministry’s general inspection has launched a probe into alleged wrongdoing by employees of the penitentiary facility No.9 in Tbilisi.
Merabishvili said at a court hearing in Kutaisi on December 17 that at about 1:30am on December 14 he was taken out of his prison cell with his head shrouded in his jacket and driven to a location, which he thinks was the office of department of penitentiary system, where the meeting with the chief prosecutor took place. Merabishvili says that chief prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze told him to help solve the case of death of PM Zurab Zhvania otherwise threatened with deterioration of his condition in prison and with the arrest of his friends and relatives.
It is understood that internal probe by the penitentiary ministry deals only with the part of the allegation according to which Merabishvili was unlawfully taken out of his prison cell. No investigation into second part of the allegation, involving alleged pressure on Merabishvili, has been launched.
UNM opposition party in which Merabishvili formally retain post of secretary general has been calling for the launch of investigation, as well as demanding from the authorities to release recordings of all the relevant surveillance cameras, including those installed in the prison.
On December 23 a group of twelve non-governmental organizations, among them some of the leading Georgian human rights groups, called on both the penitentiary ministry and chief prosecutor’s office to open investigation into Merabishvili’s allegations.
“It is obvious that it should be first and foremost in the interest of the authorities to establish the truth. If Merabishvili lies, it is easy to reveal this lie. Efficient and objective investigation should answer to all the questions," the statement reads, adding that failure to launching the investigation, dragging it out or citing impossibility to review video recordings or other similar groundless pretexts will only give credibility to allegations leveled by Merabishvili.