Ministry in charge of penitentiary system said its internal probe found no evidence to substantiate allegations leveled by former interior and ex-PM Vano Merabishvili, who is now in pre-trial detention and who claimed that he was unlawfully taken from his prison cell for a meeting with then chief prosecutor in December.
Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili, however, said that the ministry’s probe failed to remove all the question marks and the United National Movement opposition party accused the penitentiary ministry of covering up the crime and called for resignation of prison system minister Sozar Subari and for launching investigation by a parliamentary commission.
The penitentiary ministry said in its statement on January 14 that it studied footage from eighteen CCTV cameras located along the route from the prison No.9 in Tbilisi, where Merabishvili is held, to the department for penitentiary, where Merabishvili was allegedly taken overnight on December 14 for a meeting with then chief prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze. Review of these recordings, the ministry said, revealed no evidence relevant to the case.
The ministry, however, said it was not possible to review footage from surveillance cameras installed in the prison itself because recordings are stored only for twenty four hours and then automatically deleted.
The penitentiary ministry announced about launch of its internal probe on December 23, six days after Merabishvili leveled his allegations. Before that prison system minister Sozar Subari denied on December 18 Merabishvili’s allegations as “utterly false” and in separate remarks earlier he said that as far as he was aware recordings of prison surveillance cameras were stored for 10 days.
Merabishvili first leveled his allegations on December 17, when he said at a court hearing in Kutaisi that at about 1:30am on December 14 he was taken out of his prison cell with his head shrouded in his jacket and driven to a location, which he thinks was the office of department of penitentiary system, where the meeting with the chief prosecutor took place. Merabishvili says that chief prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze told him to help solve the case of death of PM Zurab Zhvania otherwise threatened with deterioration of his condition in prison and with the arrest of his friends and relatives. Partskhaladze had to step down in late December after he became embroiled in a scandal over his past criminal conviction in Germany.
Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, who met Merabishvili after the latter voiced his allegations, said on January 15 that penitentiary ministry’s internal probe was not convincing and called for a thorough investigation by prosecutor’s office.
“Questions still remain so investigations should be launched by the prosecutor’s office in order to answer all the remaining questions, which I still have,” Nanuashvili said.
UNM opposition party, where Merabishvili formally still retain post of secretary general, accused the penitentiary ministry of destroying evidence and covering up the crime.
“We are dealing with the crime of such kind and scale which requires establishment of a parliamentary commission in order to investigate it as the executive authorities are covering it up instead of establishing the truth,” UNM said.
“Sozar Subari, who most probably partook in destroying the evidence, should resign,” it said.