TBILISI, DFWatch — The moving of former interior minister Bacho Akhalaia from one prison to another was done because other inmates had threatened to kill him, according to Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani.
After Akhalaia was detained for abusing powers, illegal deprivation of freedom and torture, he was first placed in Gldani Prison north in Tbilisi, which is scandalized by revelations of torture. It is one of the most crowded prisons in Georgia and has seen many deaths among inmates in recent years.
Yesterday morning, Akhalaia’s wife wrote on Facebook that he had been moved to prison No 7 ion Ortachala, south in Tbilisi, where there are only 35 prisoners, the majority of them connected with the mafia, or so-called thieves in law.
Representatives of the National Movement Party and relatives of Bacho Akhalaia expressed concern with the transfer and gathered outside the prison to protest and express solidarity, calling it an act of cynicism.
“We took care that Bacho Akhalaia didn’t feel oppressed,” said Prison Minister Sozar Subari, and explained that Prison No 7 is the safest.
“He is absolutely isolated not only from other prisoners but from the whole building. No one lives in the part where Bacho Akhalaia is now placed.”
The prison minister said there are a few prisoners there, so there is no threat and conditions are normal, surveillance cameras are installed in all three corridors and there is a guard on both sides.
The minority in parliament on Wednesday met the prison minister to discuss this issue, but were dissatisfied. They were told that Prison No 7 is the only place where Bacho Akhalaia will be safe.
“If this is so, it shows that the safest place is the place where thieves in law are placed,” said Zurab Japaridze from the minority after the meeting, calling the transfer an attempt at putting psychological pressure on the ex-minister.
The minority and other supporters of Akhalaia plan to appeal to the international community about it.
The ombudsman’s office on Wednesday appealed to the prison ministry to once again review the issue of replacing Bacho Akhalaia in facility No 7 and take all measures to provide him with safety.
The ombudsman’s staff visited the former minister and wrote that he is placed separately from the other prisoners. In his cell there are cameras. Akhalaia has reported that there was no mistreatment, he has no health problems and doesn’t have complaints about the prison administration, but he doesn’t consider it right that he was moved to this prison considering the kind of inmates in Prison No 7.
In an interview with Maestro TV, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said prisoners were aggressive towards the former minister at Gldani prison, that’s why he was moved. Several prisoners were threatening that they wouldn’t let him live.
Bacho Akhalaia served as prison minister for three years, then defense minister for three years, and then interior minister for a few months.
Bacho Akhalaia is considered a staunch ally of Saakashvili. July 4, he was appointed interior minister, but when the prison abuse scandal broke September 19, he resigned. Many prisoners and their parents accused him of being personally involved in a number of torture cases. He was also accused of being involved in a rebellion at Ortachala prison in Tbilisi on March 27, 2006.