TBILISI, DFWatch — Tbilisi City Court has decided that Bacho Akhalaia is to be kept in pretrial detention until the next hearing in the case on December 25. Two military officers were released against a USD 12 000 bail each.
The hearing started at 14:00 on Friday at Tbilisi City Court and the three are accused in the same case, dealing with violence and threats allegedly made against military personnel. Akhalaia is a former prison, defense and interior minister, Giorgi Kalandadze is head of the general headquarters and Zurab Shamatava is commander of the fourth brigade.
Lawyers and supporters, including MPs from the National Movement Party, claimed the testimonies were insufficient evidence for detaining Bacho Akhalaia and demanded he be released until the trial starts December 25.
Bacho Akhalaia’s lawyer also asked him to be freed. The court disagreed, but released the two military officers against a 20 000 lari bail each.
After the decision, Bacho Akhalaia, by many seen as the brain behind a widespread practice of beating and terrorizing prisoners, was placed in a cell at Gldani prison north in Tbilisi, where most of the abuse has taken place and where six recently published videos were shot last year, showing staff beating and humiliating inmates Abu Ghraib-style.
All three were arrested November 7, on the five year anniversary of a massive security crackdown on popular anti-Saakashvili demonstrations and storming of a TV-station by police; a symbolism unlikely to go unnoticed by most Georgians.
The three are accused of abusing their powers, while Bacho Akhalaia was additionally charged with illegal deprivation of freedom. The prosecutor’s office published testimonies of witnesses who retell about certain cases.
Nugzar Tsiklauri from the National Movement Party said after the court’s decision that the judge made a fair decision regarding Zurab Shamatava and Giorgi Kalandadze.
“As for Bacho Akhalaia, for those two months we will try to make the defense gather as much evidence as possible to present at the trial,” he added.
He called the current events a provocation, which is now suspended, but was organized by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, and Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani.