TBILISI, DFWatch -A former sports minister detained for being involved in a fatal gun accident that killed his friend was Saturday released on GEL 3,000 (USD 1,800) bail by Tbilisi court, along with two other men charged for the same incident.

Lado Vardzelashvili, former sports minister and close ally of President Saakashvili, is charged with illegal possession of a gun.

Vakhtang Bichashvili, a policeman and Vardzelashvili’s relative, who owned the gun, has to pay GEL 6,000 (USD 3,600) bail and Zviad Kavtaradze who fired the fatal shot with an old-fashioned Soviet army pistol, TT, has to pay GEL 15,000 (USD 9,000) bail.

All three were old friends of the man who was killed. The tragedy occurred late night on February 22, during an informal party held in the apartment of Vardzelashvili.  The trio was detained the same night.

That fatal night Lado Vardzelashvili hosted friends, with spouses, to celebrate the return from Greece of a Sports Ministry employee. The ex-minister took his friends into an adjacent room to show off his collection of guns. When he handed the TT pistol to Zviad Kavtaradze to show him, the latter accidently fired a shot which hit Siradze in the chest. Siradze didn’t make it to the hospital.

It turned out that the TT pistol was not officially registered in Varzelashvili’s name, thus making him responsible for keeping a gun illegally. The ex-minister explained that it was a present from his relative, Vakhtang Bichashvili, and that he had planned to register it. The former minister may be sentenced to up to three years in jail for illegally keeping a gun.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 17.