Ex-PM and secretary general of UNM party Vano Merabishvili said that arrest of his “close friend” and long-time right-hand man Shota Khizanishvili, who is now vice-mayor of Tbilisi, was arrested “to exert pressure personally on me.”
Khizanishvili was deputy interior minister for few months before becoming capital city’s vice-mayor after the October parliamentary elections; he served as chief of administration in the interior ministry when Merabishvili was the interior minister in 2004-2012.
Khizanishvili and eleven Interior Ministry officials were arrested on November 15. He and ten Interior Ministry officials have been accused by prosecutors of illegal surveillance against political opponents through cybercrime.
“I understand and I know that he was arrested in order to exert pressure personally on me, because he is my close friend; our families are close too,” Merabishvili said.
“But Bidzina Ivanishvili should have no hope that by such steps he will stir fear or anxiety among us. On the contrary, it will make us stronger; Bidzina Ivanishvili’s such steps will not scare us,” Merabishvili added.
Apart of Khizanishvili and eleven Interior Ministry officials, who were arrested on November 15, it emerged on November 16 that ex- head of the Interior Ministry’s internal investigations unit Tengiz Gunava was also arrested.
News about the arrest of Gunava, who before becoming head of the ministry’s internal investigations unit in 2012 was chief of police in Samegrelo region, was first reported by lawmakers from UNM party.
The Interior Ministry confirmed that Gunava was arrested on charges related to illegal possession of arms and drugs. UNM said that drugs were “planted” and charges “fabricated” against Gunava.
“It is ridiculous to arrest Gunava for drug-related charges,” Merabishvili said. “He is kind of a symbol of eradicating drug mafia in Samegrelo.”
“We will spare no efforts… to show the society what a dangerous trend we are dealing with,” Merabishvili said.