TBILISI, DFWatch–Tbilisi City Court has found a former interior minister and two other ex-officials guilty of beating a parliamentarian in 2005.
The guilty verdict against Vano Merabishvili, Erekle Kodua and Gia Siradze concludes a trial that has lasted for over two years.
The once powerful Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili – who is already in jail for other crimes – was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail.
The two others, ex-officials at the infamous Special Operations Department (SOD), received nine years.
Merabishvili has been in prison since May 2013. He has already been convicted on some of the charges, notably appropriation of property, dispersal of a peaceful rally on May 26, 2011, and the murder of a bank employee in 2006.
The erstwhile SOD chief Kodua and his former employee Siradze are abroad.
The man they attacked, Valeri Gelashvili, is now a member of parliament for the governing Georgian Dream coalition. He is a majoritarian elected from his hometown Khashuri.
In 2005, when he was beaten by unknown people, he was an MP representing the Republican Party, which supported then President Mikheil Saakashvili in the first few years after the Rose Revolution, but later became part of the opposition against him.
In 2004, that party won the parliamentary election alongside Saakashvili’s National Movement, but in June 2005, they announced that they no longer supported the government.
After the Republican Party went into opposition, Gelashvili spoke with the daily newspaper Rezonansi and said that Saakashvili had appropriated his house, which was in the location where the president’s residence stands today, and this was done without paying any compensation. Gelashvili also spoke about the private life of Saakashvili in a quite uncensored way. He was one of the first people to say that in the government, Saakashvili used to make decisions on his own based on his personal goals.
After this interview was published, Gelashvili was beaten in the street by people wearing black masks. He was severely injured and according to doctors barely survived. According to a medical report he had brain trauma, several broken bones, injuries to his nose and forehead, and other injuries.
At the time, many thought that he was beaten because of this interview, but the case wasn’t investigated. After the change of power in 2012, the new government promised to start investigating.
Investigators claim that Vano Merabishvili ordered Erekle Kodua to organize the attack on Gelashvili, and that Kodua carried out the attack with the help of Siradze on July 15, 2005.
Employees of SOD, aided by special units, attacked Kodua’s car in Tbilisi, forcing him out, after which they’ve beaten him. They took his gun, which was registered in his name, also USD 10,000 and a ring.
Tbilisi City Court found the three guilty for exceeding their official powers. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili is also subject to the same charge in this case.
Journalist Rusa Machaidze spoke with DFWatch about the details of her interview with Gelashvili in 2005. She told us that she got the interview the day when the Republican Party left the majority in parliament. Gelashvili was an MP at the time.
She told us that Gelashvili claimed in the interview that Saakshvili appropriated his house and he used obscene expressions about Saakashvili and his family. Even though those words didn’t make it into the newspaper, the interview was still scandalous because he spoke about Saakashvili’s actions.
“This enraged the National Movement, and the next day Giga Bokeria read out loud quotes from the interview during the session and his statement was quite incendiary, which is why the Republican Party got into a dispute with him, and later Davit Berdzenishvili hit Bokeria in the back. This was followed by an argument. There was a room for journalists in the parliament building in Tbilisi and we, the journalists, watched the argument from above,” she recalls.
Merabishvili’s lawyer plans to appeal the City Court’s verdict to the Supreme Court. He says that sooner or later, the government will have to admit that Merabishvili is a political prisoner.
Gelashvili is content with the court’s decision and says that the one who gave the order and those who carried it out have been punished.
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