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Former PM Merabishvili released from prison, announces coming back to active politics

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Friday, February 21
Former Georgian Prime Minister and former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili has been released after nearly seven years in prison. He was released from the so-called Matrosov's prison yesterday. He says the current government will change this year and he will do his best for this.

“I guarantee you that this government will be over in a year,” he said.

According to Merabishvili, it is not yet clear which party he will join. He said he would consult with his former teammates, who are currently deployed to the National Movement and European Georgia.

“I am glad that practically the whole opposition is united, and we will all defeat this government together,” said Merabishvili.

Vano Merabishvili also said that he intends to return to politics. Merabishvili said that while in prison, he did not have complete information about the current events and after meeting with his teammates, he would decide which party to pursue his political career.

Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani says Vano Merabishvili is used by his teammates for PR and members of European Georgia and the United National Movement. This is how Tsulukiani responded to Merabishvili's release from prison.

“Vano Merabishvili will see that he is a 'hot potato' and nobody wants him and his former teammates,” noted Tsulukiani.

Leader of the party Lelo, Mamuka Khazaradze, says his political team will not cooperate with the newly released Vano Merabishvili. He also reacted to Merabishvili's first statement and said it was unacceptable for him to change the government by ‘overthrowing’ it.

“Anyone who is serving a sentence, I welcome their freedom. As for the statement, I personally do not accept the word 'overthrow.' We all have to make choices for our tomorrow,” noted Khazaradze.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia responded to former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili's statement, saying that the UNM had so far tried to overthrow it and that nothing they were not successful. Gakharia repeatedly stressed that the UNM is a thing of the past and that they must think about the future.

Merabishvili left prison after six years and nine months. He was arrested in May 2013 on charges of embezzlement and voter bribery. Later, he was also charged with exceeding his authority in the May 26, 2011, and Sandro Girgvliani murder cases. In 2014, Merabishvili was found guilty and sentenced to prison.

Merabishvili is currently being charged in the Tbilisi City Court over the November 7 rally dispersal and interference in Imedi TV. According to his lawyer Oto Kakhidze, even if the case is heard, the years that have elapsed will add new possible sentences and Merabishvili will not be taken into custody.