Data Akhalaia, former chair of the Constitutional Security Department of the Interior Ministry, Georgia’s domestic intelligence service, has been charged in absentia for abuse of powers and illegal deprivation of liberty.
Akhalaia, the brother of the detained former Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia, is not currently in Georgia. He and three other officials of the interior ministry are accused regarding the physical abuse of employees of the interior ministry’s Tbilisi department.
The Chief Prosecutor says they are also implicated in the murder of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006.
Sandro Girgvliani, 28, was discovered dead January 28, 2006 in a suburb of Tbilisi with multiple injuries, which were the result of physical violence. This is one of the most controversial criminal cases in recent Georgian history, particularly because the wife of then Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili was involved as well as the above mentioned officials.
The Girgvliani murder led to criticism of the government, especially against the interior ministry, and led to society seriously questioning the independence of the courts and the reforms conducted by the government. Despite demands from society, President Saakashvili didn’t consider the responsibility of the interior ministry or the other people involved in the murder, but they were instead let to continue in their posts.
The mother and grandfather of the victim for years tried to find justice, but both died without ever making it to court. None of the family of Sandro Girgvliani are alive today.
The European Court of Human Rights on April 26, 2011, sentenced the Georgian government to pay 50 000 euro for moral damage. The Court remarked that it was astonished at how the local courts and the prosecutor’s office had tried to define the conditions of the case. Summing up its judgment of the quality of the investigation into the murder, the court said it lacked “independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness”.
Data Akhalaia and Geronti Alania were officially charged on Sunday. They held high posts at the interior ministry for years during which time they were implicated in many illegal actions, but in spite of demands from the opposition to investigate those cases, the government did not do so, while promoting them.
After the election on October 1, which President Saakashvili’s party lost, they left the country. Their present location is unknown.
In the most recent case they are accused of beating an employee of the interior ministry, because this person assaulted the wife of the interior minister. But as they were beating the person, they discovered that they were mistaken and that it wasn’t who they thought it was.
Akhalaia’s lawyers say this is an absurd charge and he would not assault a policeman.
Irakli Zakareishvili, a lawyer working for Data Akhalaia, says he is partly familiar with the documents of the case and considers the charges illegal, which is not good for the prosecutor’s office’s image.
“I have all the grounds to state that this is political persecution against my client,” he said.
Lawyers hired by Akhalaia and Alania assume that the other two, Soso Topuridze and Oleg Melnikov, may also be charged in this case.