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New charges against ex-officials for May 26, 2011 mass arrests

by | Sep 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch–The Prosecutor General’s Office in Georgia on Tuesday charged four former officials for their handling of the dispersal of an anti-government rally in Tbilisi on May 26, 2011.

The four are charged with exceeding their official powers.

Those charged are: Data Akhalaia, former head of Constitutional Security Department (Kudi); his former Deputy Vasil Leluashvili; and two other employees of CSD, Revaz Shiukashvili and Levan Kardava.

All of them are in prison, except Data Akhalaia, who is abroad.

Former Deputy Interior Minister Giorgi Lortkipanidze was not charged but asked to come to Tbilisi for questioning. He is currently in Ukraine, and employed in the police in Odessa.

Backing up the charges, Prosecutor Koka Katsitadze presented a previously unknown video taken during the night of the dispersal. The video was shot by a CSD employee and is authentic, he said.

In the video, Data Akhalaia can be seen giving the orders to the police. He asks them to arrest as many protesters as possible, promising the officers bonuses. The video shows how people are arrested and the arrests are coordinated by the four people charged on Tuesday.

Investigators claim that the goal of the police operation was to carry out mass arrests, scare and punish people. Former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is currently in jail, was in charge of the operation.

“On May 25, 2011, even before the demonstration permit expired, police blocked Rustaveli Avenue and adjacent streets, whereas Freedom Square was blocked by the Constitutional Security Department and other divisions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which were led on site by Davit Akhalaia and other high ranking officials,” the statement reads.

The dispersal started at about 00:10. The Prosecutor General’s Office claims that Data Akhalaia’s promise of ‘more arrested – more bonuses’ was honored. About 900,000 laris was issued in bonuses only to the officials of the department. Including, per personal order of Vano Merabishvili and his deputy, Levan Kardava received 13,780 lari bonuses, Vasil Leluashvili 9,000 laris, Davit Akhalaia 6,500 laris and Revaz Shiukashvili 4,135 laris.

“The presented video material once again proves that Freedom Square was fully blocked by subdivisions of the Constitutional Security Department and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They intentionally besieged the demonstrators, insulted them physically and verbally and carried out mass arrests,” the statement reads. “In light of the aforementioned, it is obvious that the special operation was aimed at punishment of the demonstrators instead of dispersing the demonstration.”

Shortly after midnight May 26, 2011, a force consisting of police and irregulars moved in to clear the street and square in front parliament, where demonstrators intended to prevent an independence day military parade.

Five people died. The events were chronicled by Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association in a report the same year.

After the change of government in 2012, former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili was put on trial as the main person responsible and sentenced to four and a half years in jail for exceeding his official powers.



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