TBILISI, DFWatch–Prison Ministry staff have questioned former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili about his statement about being taken from his cell and threatened by the chief prosecutor.
Merabishvili said in December that he was brought out of his cell and taken to what he believed was an office at the Prison Ministry, where the chief prosecutor allegedly threatened him with worse prison conditions and having his friends and relatives arrested if he didn’t cooperate with an investigation.
Two employees at the ministry’s general inspection arrived at Matrosov Prison in Tbilisi yesterday and remained there for one hour to get Merabishvili’s explanation about the incident.
However, Merabishvili’s lawyer Davit Khajalia said he thinks it is not enough sending general inspection employees; in his opinion, the Chief Prosecutor’s office should conduct an investigation into the case.
“Starting an inquest and the resignation of the chief prosecutor doesn’t mean that the questions are answered,” he told journalists.
Merabishvili claims that the chief prosecutor, Otar Partskhaladze, who resigned December 30, asked him to cooperate in the investigation of the death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania in 2005. Officially, Zhvania was deemed to have died as the result of an accident with a faulty gas heater, but questions have gone unanswered ever since, and many suspect foul play.
Merabishvili was allegedly told that if he didn’t cooperate, he would get worse conditions in the prison and his fellow party members, friends and relatives would be arrested.
Lawyers working for the former interior minister said Saturday that video footage from a surveillance camera inside the prison from the day when their client was brought out of his cell has not yet been deleted. They believe it could answer questions as to what happened and demand that the recording is taken in as evidence in the investigation. Lawyer Khazhalia says the footage might be deleted in a few days and must be secured soon.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani said in October 2013 that it is a priority for the government to investigate the death of Zhvania, and that the official explanation of his death was without solid basis. Then Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said there has come up new evidence, leading to a new theory.