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Georgia ‘investigating’ alleged assault on former PM Vano Merabishvili

5 January 2023
Vano Merabishvili addressing a UNM rally in April 2013. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation into an alleged attack on former Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, by the son-in-law of conservative campaigner Gia ‘Utsnobi’ Gachechiladze.

Speaking to Rustavi 2 on Wednesday, Giorgi Sharashidze confirmed that he ‘physically contacted’ Vano Merabishvili on Monday.

‘There was a confrontation between me and Vano Merabishvili at a pharmacy in Vake. I can't even call it a confrontation, because Mr Merabishvili ran away in the very first seconds’, said Sharashidze. 

Asked what caused the confrontation, Sharashidze said that ‘if he [Merabishvili] still has an ounce of manhood, it's better if he says it himself’.

He added that he was ‘not hiding from the investigation, [and] not avoiding responsibility'. 

Vano Merabishvili was Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs from 2004 to 2012 and Prime Minister for three months in 2012, both during the now-opposition United National Movement’s time in power.

Merabishvili, a highly controversial figure, was sentenced to prison in February 2014 on multiple charges, including misspending state funds, bribery, and exceeding official powers. He maintains that his sentence was politically motivated. The European Court of Human Rights found that some of his treatment by the authorities did violate his rights, but stopped short of  dismissing his conviction.

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After being released in 2020, Merabishvili announced that he would return to Georgian politics, but has not actively or openly participated in politics since.

Giorgi Sharashidze’s father-in-law, Gia Gachechiladze, is a prominent singer, conservative activist, and supporter of the ruling Georgian Dream Party.

Gachechiladze, better known by his nickname Utsnobi (‘unknown’), has been an outspoken critic of the opposition UNM since their time in power. 

Merabishvili has not yet commented on the allegations.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs told OC Media that they had launched an investigation for violence, ‘based on information spread in the media’.

The crime carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, or up to six years under certain aggravating circumstances.