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Former officials face additional charges

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 16
The Prosecutor’s Office has brought new charges against former high-ranking officials, including Georgia’s former president, charged with the violent dispersal of a demonstration on November 7 2007 and the intrusion into IMEDI TV.

The Prosecutor’s Office statement reads that the charges under the above mentioned criminal cases have been clarified for Georgia’s Former President Mikheil Saakashvili and other officials, through which Saakashvili exceeded his official powers by using violence and affronting the human dignity of a victim, which caused substantial damage to the rights of individuals and legal entities, legitimate public and state interests.

The charges entail imprisonment of up to 8 years.

Under the same criminal cases, charges filed against former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili, former Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili and ex-Tbilisi Mayor Giorgi Ugulava have been aggravated, and charges against former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili have been clarified without the aggravation of his guilt.

"Charges against Kezerashvili have been revised; initially, he was accused only of abuse of power, but now he is also charged with money laundering. This is a purely political process, which is aimed at keeping former Mayor Gigi Ugulava behind bars, since his pre-trail detention term expires on April 2," said Kezerashvili’s lawyer Beka Basilaia.

Ugulava, whose nine-month pre-trial detention is about to expire for other charges, now faces additional charges for illegal seizure of property and participating in the 2007 rally wrongdoings. The Prosecutor’s Office has already appealed for the expansion of his detention term to Tbilisi City Court.

“Charges against Vano Merabishvili remain the same - abuse of power. They have only been further clarified. Some of the terminology was adjusted,” Merabishvili’s lawyer Gogita Gabaidze said.

The opposition United National Movement states that the process is politically motivated, while the majority claims that the government doesn’t interfere in the issues of the Prosecutor’s Office.

The U.S. Embassy to Georgia has released a statement with regard to the additional charges against members of the former Georgian government.

According to the statement posted on the Embassy’s Facebook page, they are concerned about the additional charges.

“We are concerned by the announcement of additional or re-qualified charges being filed against members of the former government. These additional charges, against former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava in particular, appear to be an effort to subvert the nine-month limit on pre-trial detention. We encourage the government of Georgia to take steps to strengthen the Rule of Law and avoid any perception it may be engaging in a campaign of politically-motivated justice”, the statement says.