Georgia: Saakashvili ally sentenced to 5 years

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — A court in Georgia has convicted a top ally of former President Mikhail Saakashvili of embezzlement and abuse of office and sentenced him to five years in prison.

Vano Merabishvili served for nearly eight years as interior minister in charge of Georgia's police force before becoming prime minister ahead of a parliamentary election in 2012. After Saakashvili's party suffered a humiliating defeat in the election and his rival became prime minister, prosecutors filed charges against many of Saakashvili's allies.

Merabishvili, who heads Saakashvili's party, was arrested in May 2013 and accused of putting nearly 22,000 party campaign workers on the Labor Ministry payroll. He also was accused of illegally appropriating a seaside residence and using government funds to maintain it.

Merabishvili's lawyer said he will appeal Monday's court ruling.

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