On Vano Merabishvili’s Imminent Release


Vano Merabishvili’s custody is approaching an end. The legendary Minister of Interior Affairs will leave the Matrosov Prison in February next year. The closer we get to the day of his release, the greater the interest is in his future plans. At the moment, the only thing known to us is that Merabishvili plans to remain in politics. The question of where or with whom, leaning towards the United National Movement or European Georgia, is still a secret. Georgian media has started discussing his upcoming plans, but nothing rational has been communicated yet.

One of the key representatives of the former government, Merabishvili was arrested on May 21, 2013 by the Georgian Dream. Imprisoned in Tbilisi, the ex-PM was, for some reason, convicted in Kutaisi. Moving him away from the political epicenter once again highlighted the importance of Merabishvili’s persona. The Kutaisi Court delivered a verdict on five cases: 1. Illegal seizure of the wine factory “Akura” – 2 years and 3 months; 2. Hiding the evidence on Sandro Girgvliani’s case – 3 years; 3. Dispersion of a demonstration on May 26, 2011 – 4 years and 6 months. 4. Misappropriation, embezzlement and voter bribery - 5 years; 5. Physical assault on Valeri Gelashvili - 6 years and 9 months. He was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months in prison as the ultimate punishment. According to the verdict, Merabishvili is due to be released in March 2020.

Interestingly, by arresting Merabishvili and taking him into custody, the “Dreamers” created some serious problems for themselves. Moreover, they were neither able to “bury” the United National Movement, nor neutralize the oppositional front. And now, they need to release Merabishvili right at the very moment when each and every vote is worth its weight in gold.

It’s no secret that Merabishvili has numerous supporters within the main law enforcement institute of the country, as policemen often still drink a toast to him when they meet for a feast. As such, Merabishvili’s freedom could provoke a big headache for the Georgian Dream. This has already been compared to Yulia Timoshenko’s release in Ukraine, when the ex-PM returned as one of the key political players during the elections. This comparison though is exaggerated, as Merabishvili was never an independent figure, so we shouldn’t expect any independent steps from him. As leader of the political movement “Victorious Georgia”, Valeri Gelbakhiani, states, Merabishvili was always a “doer” and will continue doing what he was always so good at.

The governmental media has voiced an alternative forecast. The Kvira agency suggests that upon release Merabishvili will leave both politics and the country, heading to Kiev to meet up with Saakashvili, or to Spain where his old friend Amiran Meskheli resides. This information immediately prompted comments, and Merabishvili’s lawyer Giorgi Chiviashvili denied such a possibility.

Political experts are also doubtful of the governmental media suggestions. Gia Khukhashvili says that Merabishvili never really left the political scene: “Vano Merabishvili never left politics and naturally, when he is released from jail, where else would he go? Of course, he will return to politics. Although the government threatens action, I suppose it won’t have any luck there either,” he said.

Where will Merabishvili go? The more time passes, the more relevant this question becomes. Expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze is convinced that we will see Merabishvili with the United National Movement next spring, because “European Georgia is trying to distance itself from those crimes that took place at the time. Hence, gaining a member that directly symbolizes those crimes wouldn’t appeal to them.”

By Zaza Jgarkava

07 November 2019 18:09