[JURIST] The Kutaisi City Court in Georgia on Monday sentenced former prime minister Vano Merabishvili to a five-year prison term for embezzling government funds and bribing voters. Prosecutors specifically alleged that Merabishvili used government money [AFP report] to employ his supporters in fictitious government roles in advance of his party's October 2012 parliamentary elections. The court also handed down a USD $27,000 fine to Merabishvili's co-defendant, former health minister Zurab Chiaberashvili. Reports indicate that both the prosecution and the defendants plan to appeal the ruling in pursuit of harsher and more lenient sentences respectively. Merabishvili and his lawyers claim he is innocent of the charges and that the prosecution is political in nature. The Georgian government reportedly denies that the prosecution stems from any political agenda.
Corruption continues to be a heavily-litigated issue around the globe. In February Turkey's parliament passed a law giving parliament more control over how judges are appointed [JURIST report]. Amid protests over suspected government corruption and even violence inside parliament the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) pushed through the bill giving the Justice Ministry more control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Also in February the European Commission (EC) released [JURIST report] the EU Anti-Corruption Report, which found that corruption costs EU member states approximately €120 billion each year. The first-ever EC report on the subject details the nature of corruption in each member state as well as the impact corruption has on the European economy. In January the European Commission released [JURIST report] its semi-annual Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report on Romania, warning the nation to end political pressure on the judiciary amid continuing concerns over corruption.