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The News in Brief

Monday, March 3
Former Georgian PM Merabishvili sentenced… Again

Georgia's former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili has received another jail sentence, this one for 4 1/2 years.

A court in the western city of Kutaisi on February 27 found Merabishvili guilty of exceeding his official powers in a case related to the dispersal of protesters in 2011.

Earlier this month, Merabishvili was sentenced to five years in jail for abuse of office, bribery of voters, and the illegal use of budget funds.

Charges against him in other cases are pending.

Merabishvili says the charges are politically motivated because of his links to former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Merabishvili, who is secretary-general of Saakashvili's United National Movement party, was arrested in May 2013.

Several associates of Saakashvili have been arrested and charged with wrongdoing since the former opposition Georgian Dream coalition won parliamentary elections in 2012.
(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

United National Movement announce Tbilisi Mayoral candidates

The United National Movement (UNM) political party has nominated two challengers who will fight for the Tbilisi Mayoral position.

Georgia’s Parliament Members (MPs) Giorgi Vashadze and Mtsatsminda-Krtsanisi Governor Nika Melia will run for Mayor, and be selected through primaries.

This decision was made at the UNM congress today.

The primaries will be held within one month, Vashadze told journalists after the meeting.

Tbilisi’s ousted Mayor Gigi Ugulava has been elected as the Chairman of the Tbilisi organization of the National Movement party. This was his second term elected to this post. This decision was also made at today’s meeting.

The UNM party will continue to name candidates for Mayoral and Governor roles for all cities and districts.

Local self-government elections will be held on June 15.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili announced the exact date of the elections during his speech in Parliament.

150 Georgian troops to contribute to African mission

The Georgian government has confirmed that 150 troops will be sent to the troubled Central African region to take part in a European Union military peacekeeping mission. Being involved in the EU Security and Defence Mission was "morally right,” said Georgia’s Defence Minister Irakli Alasania.

"[Georgia’s contribution will] not only give help to the EU but for us it is also a moral mission", Alasania told news Agency France Press (AFP).

Georgia's 150 troops will join French and African Union troops help combat the horrific spiral of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic. It will be the nation’s first contribution to an EU Security and Defence Mission and its first operation in Africa, the Minister stated.

So far, nations had offered 600 troops to take part in the French-led mission, Alasania said.

Almost a million people have been displaced in the Central African Republic. To date, France has sent 2,000 troops to its former colony to assist almost 6,000 African peacekeepers.

"[Georgia] is future member of the EU and we are future members of NATO, so our commitment is also a commitment to the common values," Alasania said. He stressed the decision had been approved by the majority and the opposition in Parliament.

Georgia, besides Ukraine, is one of six ex-Soviet satellites involved in the EU's Eastern Partnership scheme to bolster mutual ties, will also contribute officers to a separate EU military mission to train Mali's army, he added.

Protest in Tbilisi for better protection of workers’ rights

Several hundred people gathered outside the government building in Tbilisi on Friday to demand better protection of workers’ rights.

Workers are on strike in several places in Georgia. In Kazreti, the entire village is protesting against a mass dismissal from a gold mine and in Chiatura hundreds are on strike against harsh conditions and low pay in the manganese mines.

The company promised improvements over a year ago, but has not delivered.

Friday’s demonstration also took aim at raising awareness about socially vulnerable people and a protest among homeless people to demand a place to live, and also a strike among firefighters in Tbilisi, who claim that their boss is corrupt.

The demonstrators demand that the Health Ministry acts as a mediator and helps solve these problems. They also ask the government and parliament to review their policy in regard to protection of labor rights.

Health Minister Davit Sergeenko said at a press conference on Friday that the ministry will engage in trying to solve the labor disputes in Kazreti and in Chiatura.

“This is our duty,” he said. “In a few days, a government commission will officially start working on this.”

He said the ministry will actively participate in solving these problems.

About 80 people from Kazreti came to Friday’s rally in Tbilisi. Workers from Chiatura were also present. Firefighters held a poster that said ‘save firefighters-rescuers they will save us.’ Homeless people living in temporary shelters also came to the rally.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Emergency services of Eastern Partnership countries conduct exercises in Tbilisi

The main planning conference for team exercises under the auspices of the Eastern Partnership as part of PPRD East program has ended in Tbilisi.

The program participants were awarded with certificates and awards, the Georgian Interior Ministry said on February 27.

The representatives of the emergency services of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia planned joint rescue operations during large-scale disasters and discussed the methods of humanitarian and technical provision during the conference.

The sides also discussed a plan of action for international media and cooperation with press-services.

The program for the prevention, preparedness and response to natural and man-made disasters in the Eastern Partnership region (PPRD East) is the flagship initiative of the Eastern Partnership. The program is funded by the European Union.