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Justice Minister criticizes Georgia’s Ombudsman

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, March 6
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani criticized Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili “for being a witness” of former Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili, who is currently in jail, for various charges and whose case is to be discussed by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Tsulukiani said in her interview with the Public Broadcaster of Georgia that Nanuashvili is one of the key witnesses of Ivanishvili in the Strasburg Court, who was charged with faking documents, misspending budgetary funds and alleged exceeding his power in connection with three different notorious legal cases.

“Our Ombudsman decided to officially stand by Ivanishvili side in Strasburg Court as a witness…he is supporting our opposing side and this is a very unprecedented fact,” said Tsulukiani, adding that the court has enough evidence to 'prove the truth'.

Nanuashvili soon responded to the Justice Minister, saying that her statement clearly distorts the real picture and aims to mislead the public.

Nanuashvili says that the Minister wants to ascribe the blame to others for her mistake. He noted that if his previous recommendations over the case had been taken into account, the country might have not lost a case in the European Court and neither would it be needed to appeal against the decision in the Grand Chamber.

“The Public Defender, as a person who had personally met with Ivane Merabishvili in prison and heard his story, provided the European Court with all available information. The Public Defender is the only neutral person in the case,” the statement reads.

The statement underlines that it is the duty of the Public Defender to protect human rights of all persons regardless of their political affiliation.

Merabishvili, who served as Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Georgia under the previous state leadership, was arrested in May 2013 after the current ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition defeated the previous leading power, the United National Movement (UNM) party, in the 2012 parliamentary race.

In February 2014, a Georgian court found Merabishvili guilty on the charge of exceeding his official power and he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

The applicant alleged that his pre-trial detention had not been governed by clear legal rules and had been unreasonable. He also claimed his pre-trial detention served the purpose of excluding him from the political life of the country, as he was appointed Secretary General of the UNM after the 2012 parliamentary elections and intended to participate in the 2013 Presidential elections.

Merabishvili filed a lawsuit with the ECtHR, which in June 2016 ruled out that Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention was lawful and based on reasonable grounds.

The ECtHR also held that Georgia was to pay Merabishvili 4,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 8,000 for costs and expenses.

The decision of compensation was later appealed by the Georgian side and now the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR will hold an oral hearing of Merabishvili’s case on March 8.