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The News in Brief

Tuesday, January 29

Opposition meet foreign diplomats, unveil joint statement

The political opposition met representatives from 17 diplomatic missions in Georgia yesterday, presenting a joint memorandum detailing the measures they say need to be taken for upcoming parliamentary elections to be free and fair.

Opposition MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili told journalists after the meeting that they discussed the current political situation in Georgia and upcoming parliamentary elections.

Today, twelve political organizations and three former presidential candidates—Levan Gachechiladze, Davit Gamkrelidze and Giorgi Maisashvili—are due to sign the memorandum and submit it to the government.

Tsagareishvili said the main demands include the staffing of electoral administrations on a parity basis and the immediate release of “political prisoners.”

“By February 15, the authorities must meet these demands or Saakashvili will face a continuous protest with 500 000 people,” Tsagareishvili said. (Black Sea Press)

Ombudsman appeals to president to release journalist from jail

Human Rights Ombudsman Sozar Subari has appealed to President Mikheil Saakashvili to release journalist Shalva Ramishvili from jail.

Subari said that Ramishvili has already served the half of his prison sentence and poses no threat to society.

Ramishvili was arrested in August 2005 on extortion charges stemming from what the journalist claims was an undercover sting on a corrupt politician. He is serving a four year sentence. (Prime News)

Tbilisi and Tallinn universities sign cooperation agreement

On January 28, rectors of Tbilisi State University and Tallinn University signed an agreement on cooperation which will promote student and staff exchanges between the two institutions.

An Estonian delegation visiting Tbilisi is due to meet deans of the Tbilisi State University faculties. (Black Sea Press)

Pupils at Tbilisi school protest teacher’s dismissal

Pupils of Tbilisi school No. 140 are protesting the dismissal of teacher Tina Kurashidze by refusing to attend lessons. Kurashidze claims she was dismissed unfairly because her views differ from the school’s director.

Natalia Barateli, director of the school, said it was unacceptable to involve children in the affair. (Prime News)

Separatists give no details on de facto Abkhaz president’s visit to Moscow

De facto Abkhaz foreign minister Sergey Shamba has refused to give details about de facto president Sergey Bagapsh’s recent visit to Moscow.

Shamba told journalists he does not know whether Baghapsh discussed the recent statement made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia does not plan to immediately recognize the independence of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Kosovo declares independence.

Shamba added that Lavrov’s statement implied Russia would only refrain from recognizing the breakaway regions temporarily, and that Georgia has read too much into his statement.

He also objected to the renaming of the Georgian State Ministry for Conflict Resolution Issues to the State Ministry for Reintegration Issues in the latest Tbilisi cabinet reshuffle, saying that de facto Abkhaz authorities will refuse to cooperate with the new state ministry. (Prime News)

Memorial of Sandro Girgvliani unveiled on Shardeni Street

Memorials of Sandro Girgvliani and his mother, Irina Enukidzem, were unveiled on Shardeni Street in central Tbilisi yesterday.

The event, organized by the Equality Institute NGO, was dedicated to the second anniversary of the death of Sandro Girgvliani.

Girgvliani, a 28-year-old banker, was found dead after an argument with Interior Ministry officials in a Shardeni bar.

NGO representatives, relatives and friends of Girgvliani attended the event.

Irina Enikidze maintained until her death—a year after her son’s—that his murder was masterminded by top Interior Ministry officials. Top officials were implicated but never charged in the case, and the scandal is frequently cited by opposition campaigners as an example of government malfeasance. (Prime News)

New Health Minister plans consultation body

Sandro Kvitashvili, the new Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs plans to establish a consultation body in the ministry, he announced on January 28.

The body will be composed of a wide spectrum of healthcare and social experts, whose opinions will be taken into account during decision making.

Discussing a government plan to build 100 new hospitals, the new minister said the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. He also defended his absence from the country for the past five years—he was based in the US until very recently—by saying he has gained a wealth of experience in the health sector. (Black Sea Press)

Border guards make drug bust

On January 26 Batumi border guards in Adjara province uncovered a shipment of cannabis at the Sarpi checkpoint on the Turkish border.

The drug shipment was found in a Turkish-registered Mercedes bus, according to the border guard press office. (Prime News)

Polling stations for Russian election to open in Georgia

Polling stations for the upcoming Russian presidential election will open in Georgia, Russian central election commission chair Vladimir Churov announced at a January 28 press conference, according to the newspaper RIA Novosti.

He also said that Russia has not invited observers from Georgia on the assumption that Georgian officials are preoccupied with preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections. (Black Sea Press)