European Court of Human Rights accepts Georgian Govt’s appeal about Ex-PM Merabishvili

"The bonus for the two dead bodies will be high," Vano Merabishvili says in the scandalous video. Photo: AP/Shakh Aivazov, 18 Oct 2016 - 11:54, Tbilisi,Georgia

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has discussed and accepted a complaint by the Georgian Government to review an earlier decision made by the Court about Georgia's former Prime Minister Ivane (Vano) Merabishvili.

Yesterday a board of five ECtHR judges said the Court had accepted the Georgian Government’s appeal against ECtHR’s June 14 decision.

On June 14, ECtHR rejected Merabishvili’s complaint against the current Government of Georgia and said pre-trial detention being imposed on the ex-high official was legal.

However the ECtHR questioned the legality of one episode during Merabishvili’s pre-trail detention, where Merabishvili claimed he was unlawfully taken out of his prison cell on December 14, 2013 and taken to a place which he believed was a department of the penitentiary system. 

Merabishvili said the then-Chief Prosecutor, who was in the room, asked him to help in the investigation into the unsolved death of ex-PM Zurab Zhvania, and to also provide information about ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili's bank accounts. If he refused to help Merabishvili was told his conditions in prison would deteriorate and his friends would be arrested.

These allegations by Merabishvili were denied by the Government. 

After the ECtHR announced its decision on June 14, Georgia’s Justice Ministry welcomed one part of the European Court's verdict stating Merabishvili’s pre-trail detention was legal but it appealed the part where the Court questioned this particular episode.

In the appeal the Georgian Justice Ministry said the incident never happened, there was no evidence to prove the incident ever happened and it asked for this part of the ECtHR verdict to be reversed.

The European Court looked into the request by the Georgian side and deemed it to be well-grounded and reasonable and announced the ECtHR Grand Chamber (with 17 judges) would re-discuss the case. In the meantime the ECtHR's previous decision by a chamber of seven judges will not come into force.

What were Merabishvili's charges?

Merabishvili, who served as Prime Minister for a few months but mainly Interior Minister of Georgia under the previous state government, was arrested in May 2013 after the current ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition defeated United National Movement (UNM) in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections.

Merabishvili was charged with faking documents, misspending budgetary funds and buying votes. He was also charged with exceeding official power in connection with three different notorious cases but he denied all charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Kutaisi City Court in western Georgia ordered Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention in May 2013 and his motion for release was declined four months later.

In the following months in several separate trials the former high official was found guilty and sentenced to jail. In February 2014 Kutaisi City Court found Merabishvili guilty of exceeding official power and he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

Merabishvili claimed his pre-trial detention had not been governed by clear legal rules and sentencing him had been unreasonable.

Merabishvili also claimed his pre-trial detention served the purpose of excluding him from being involved in the country’s political life, as he was appointed Secretary General of UNM after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections and he intended to participate in the 2013 Presidential Elections.