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The News in Brief

Monday, March 17
Data Akhalaia sentenced in absentia

Tbilisi City Court found on March 14 a former head of the Interior Ministry’s constitutional security department, Data Akhalaia, guilty of exceeding official powers into the case related to beating up of police officers in 2005 and sentenced him in absentia to 3 years and 9 months in jail.

Two co-defendants in the same case – Akhalaia’s former deputy Soso Topuridze and a former interior ministry officer from the same department Geronti Alania, were also sentenced in absentia to 3 years and 9 months of prison term. The fourth co-defendant Oleg Melnikov, a former officer from the same department, who was extradited to Georgia after being arrested in Ukraine last year, received similar sentence.

In the same case Data Akhalaia was also facing charges of illegal confinement committed premeditatedly by a group and with use of violence; he was acquitted of these charges.

Romania supports Georgia's course towards European integration

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta reiterated his country's support for Georgia's course towards European integration. After meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Garibashvili, PM Ponta also expressed his willingness to deepen cooperation with Georgia in the field of energy and transport at the joint press conference held on March 14.

"Romania considers its duty to help Georgia and be an ally in the EU. We want Georgia to become a member of the EU," Ponta said.

Garibashvili, in his turn said that, Georgia attaches great importance to political association with Europe and the creation of a strong legal base of phased economic integration.

The situation in the occupied regions also dissed at the meeting, special attention was paid to security and stability in Georgia and the peaceful settlement of conflicts in this context, he said.

"I am pleased to receive the Prime Minister of the country, which I can say without exaggeration is true and selfless friend of Georgia," Garibashvili said

Christian-Democrat leader quits politics

Leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement Giorgi Targamadze left politics.

"I could be more useful to the society and our country,” he said.

During his professional career, Targamadze, 40, was a well-known journalist in Georgia who worked for several local media. He also was actively involved in politics and founded the conservative Christian-Democratic Movement in 2008.

He opposed the United National Movement, which was headed by former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

However, many of Georgia's opposition politicians refused to consider Targamadze as a real opposition politician and accused him of being controlled by UNM.

Targamadze ran as a candidate in 2013 Presidential elections and gained about 1% of the votes.

This upcoming election was a reason to leave politics, Targmadze explained.

He did not specify how he plans to continue his public activity, but did not refuse a possible return to journalism.

Christian-Democratic Movement is still a united party and will participate in the local elections in Georgia this June.

Targamadze noted the party were in talks of cooperation with other political powers and did not exclude it from forming a union with the Democratic Movement – United Georgia party, headed by Nino Burjanadze.

Georgian president holds first event at disputed residence

President Giorgi Margvelashvili met with ambassadors at the president’s residence in Tbilisi, which has been nonoperational after Saakashvili left office in October, 2013. In a ceremony in the Avlabari residence, President Margvelashvili received credentials from ambassadors of 7 countries: the Sultanate of Oman, Ireland, Australia, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Philippines and Malta.

This is the first time Margvelashvili has used the president’s residence. Until now, he has refused to enter the building, because in his view Saakashvili constructed it for his own pleasure, but the country cannot afford such luxury. He still works in two rooms at the government building and lives in his old flat.

Margvelashvili was inaugurated in November 2013, but immediately refused to move into the Avalabari residence. Around the same time it was revealed that Saakashvili neither actually lived in the residence while he was president. Instead, he lived in a house in the Tbilisi suburb Didi Dighomi; close to a development known as ‘the American village’. Saakashvili used the Avlabari residence as an office, for receptions, conferences and various events.

Since Margvelashvili’s inauguration, the building hasn’t been used even as an office, and has in effect been nonoperational. It is about one month since any visitor has been allowed to enter. February 21, here was held an art exhibition there named Art Rules.

On Friday, Margvelashvili said that he plans to use the Avlabari residence for various meetings and events, but this do not mean that he will move into the offices of the facility.

“It will be used as a central,” Margvelashvili said and emphasized the importance of moving parliament back to Tbilisi, calling on MPs to achieve necessary constitutional consensus for this.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Minibus falls off bridge in Georgia

A minibus carrying passengers fell off a bridge in Georgian capital of Tbilisi on March 16.

The driver of the minibus No. 34 lost control, and as a result the car broke through the guardrail of a bridge in the Varketili district and fell on a BMW passenger car. Several other motor vehicles under the bridge were also damaged.

There were 13 passengers inside the minibus when the accident happened. Several passengers were provided with medical care at the accident site. The drivers of two passenger cars were also hospitalized; the condition of one of them is quite severe.

Rescuers, fire-fighters and several ambulances arrived at the accident site.