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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Imedi TV Manager Complains of Sabotage

APImedi manager Bidzina Baratashvili showing broken equipment in the television station's offices in Tbilisi on Friday.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian police smashed monitors and pulled out wires in a deliberate act of sabotage when they raided an opposition television station last month, managers said Friday after they were let back in for the first time.

The Imedi station is operated by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and was at the center of a crackdown on the opposition that hurt President Mikheil Saakashvili's democratic credentials and dismayed his Western allies.

After pressure from Western governments, a Georgian court lifted an injunction that had barred Imedi from broadcasting. Police unlocked the gates at midnight Thursday, allowing staff into the three-story building.

A reporter saw extensive damage to the studio's main control unit. Monitors had been smashed, wires were pulled out and a protective panel had been ripped off. Other computers and equipment had been lightly damaged.

"What I saw is total destruction," the station's general director, Lewis Robertson, said after inspecting the offices for the first time since the Nov. 7 raid.

"Obviously people knew what they were doing. There is millions and millions of dollars worth of damage in this building. ... But I think and I hope that we are able to resume broadcasting by Monday."

There was a mood of jubilation among Imedi staff as police unlocked the gates at midnight.

Journalists rushed toward the entrance of the building to reclaim lost property and inspect the damage. Later, they raised the blue and white flag of Imedi on one of the flag posts outside the building.

"I feel like I have been reborn," Imedi journalist Diana Trapaidze said. "This month without work has been a nightmare."

Saakashvili, a staunch U.S. ally, called a snap Jan. 5 presidential election after the protests, but Western governments have said they could not be considered fair unless Imedi was allowed to broadcast once again.