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Georgian Opposition Party Wants Interior Minister Brought To Trial

Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili
Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on January 28, Conservative Party co-Chairman Kakha Kukhava argued that 14 people should be brought to trial in connection with the murder three years ago of a 28-year-old banker, Sandro Girgvliani.

Girgvliani's badly beaten body was found on the outskirts of Tbilisi early on January 28, 2006, hours after he had a heated argument in a Tbilisi bar with a group of Interior Ministry officials and Tako Salakaia, the wife of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili.

Four mid-level Interior Ministry officials were subsequently arrested and tried for the killing; they received prison terms ranging from five to seven years that were shortened slightly by the Georgian Supreme Court last summer.

Just days after their arrest was announced in March 2006, Georgian human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari told journalists in Tbilisi that "in any civilized country" the Interior Minister would have resigned in the wake of a murder in which his subordinates were implicated.

Subari went on to claim that "within the Interior Ministry there is a punitive group that stands above the law and that can liquidate any given individual if doing so is considered expedient."

Kukhava said on January 28 that Merabishvili should be brought to trial for exceeding his authority and for concealing crimes. He also called for charges to be brought against Talakaia and several senior Interior Ministry officials, including three who were present during the altercation that preceded Girgvliani's murder.

-- Liz Fuller

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