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Vano Merabishbili interrogated over “false” passport

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, December 3
Vano Merabishvili, the Secretary General of the United National Movement (UNM), was questioned by police for using a fake passport in an attempt to cross the border illegally.

On December 1, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) released a copy of the passport which had Merabishvili’s photo, but with another person’s name.

According to the MIA, Merabishvili came to Tbilisi International Airport on November 30 with President Mikheil Saakasvili’s delegation on the way to Armenia to participate in a summit for the European People’s Party.

Spokesperson for the MIA Nino Giorgobiani said that during the passport control procedures, an employee of the protocol service of the president’s administration submitted Merabishvili’s passport to the border control officer; the latter detected that the passport was issued in the name of Levan Maisuradze; however, it had attached the photo of Vano Merabishvili.

The MIA explained that in order not to hamper or cause any problems to the visit of the state delegation, Merabishvili was allowed to submit his real passport.

According to Giorgobiani, when Merabishvili returned on November 30, no “legally- defined investigative procedures” were launched, as he left the airport with a presidential escort.

Head of the Presidential Protocol Service Zurab Darchiashvili denied faking Merabishvili’s passport.

Merabishvili said the allegations against him represent a “new level of absurdity.”

“We will continue struggling for Georgia,” he said after his interrogation on Saturday.

Accusing Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of oppressing the opposition, Merabishvili said neither threat, nor detentions will scare his team.

UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili thinks that police could have questioned Merabishvili at the airport as he did not follow presidential escort; however, she said police needed some time to agree to “the plot” with “the main scriptwriter”– Bidzina Ivanishvili.

President Saakashvili also thinks that the allegations are the results of an “ill fantasy.”

In a statement released on December 1, Saakashvili said that as a member of a Georgian delegation, Merabishvili attended all the meetings with him.

“Only the most imprudent persons could come up with the idea that Vano Merabishvili, would try to cross the border with a passport issued in someone else’s name to attend an open meeting in front of every television camera in Europe,” his statement reads.

Calling on the new government to stop this “absurd investigation,” President Saakashvili discouraged any “political persecution” based on “fabricated stories.”

Meanwhile, the MIA said Merabishvili came to his interrogation, but did not cooperate with the investigation. Merabishvili is to have avoided answering particular questions. “His testimonies were superficial and controversial,” reads the statement of the MIA, emphasizing that Merabishvili tried to deny “truthful facts” established by the investigation.

The investigation of the case continues. The MIA stated that everyone participating in the case will be questioned again.

Head of the Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, felt suspicious about the fact that Merabishvili did not provide his passport himself. Kakhishvili thinks that it was a “well-planned PR [stunt]” targeted for international society. He said the false passport might have become the reason for delaying the state delegation; had they been delayed, protests that Saakashvili’s delegation met obstacles on departure could have been a result.