TBILISI, DFWatch — A court in Kiev has prolonged the pretrial detention of a former Georgian interior ministry employee for 12 more months.
Oleg Melnikov, who used to work at the Constitutional Security Department, probably the most feared body in Saakashvili’s government, was detained December 7 in Kiev. He was declared a wanted person internationally by Georgia.
The court first sentenced Melnikov to 40 days preliminary detention, which would have ended January 16.
Ukrainian news agencies today reported that the court prolonged the pretrial detention with an additional year.
The Ukrainian court considered materials provided by the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office of the Melnikov case and concluded that there is not sufficient grounds for extraditing him, Ukrainian journalists write.
But the General Prosecutor of Ukraine later on Friday issued a statement explaining that Ukraine doesn’t refuse to extradite Melnikov and that it is not true that the evidence sent by Georgia was insufficient.
His detention was prolonged in order to complete the extradition procedures, the statement reads, as first 40-day term had almost ended.
Within a two month period Ukraine will check citizenship, health, possible refugee status and other data about Melnikov. If everything is in order, a decision will be made about extradition, which under Ukrainian law can be appealed and the person can also apply to the government for refugee status.
A hearing in Melnikov’s case was held yesterday, Thursday. The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office informs that the court reviewed the issue of pretrial detention, but not the issue of extradition. So it is still unknown when he might be tranfered to Georgia.
Together with other officials, Soso Topuridze, Geronti Alania and Data Akhalaia, who used to chair the same department, he is charged with abuse of powers and illegal deprivation of freedom.
Tbilisi City Court sentenced all of them to preliminary detention on December 4. The location of the remaining three is unknown. The first court hearing is scheduled for January 16, 2013.
Irakli Chilingarashvili, Chair of the legal department at the Prosecutor’s Office, today explained to journalists that Ukraine’s General Prosecutor has not yet made a decision regarding the extradition of Melnikov.
He underlined that yesterday’s court hearing was in order to review the detention issue, not the extradition issue. Reporting by Georgian media has created some confusion by writing that Ukraine refused to extradite Melnikov to Georgia, which is not correct, he said.
“We called our Ukrainian colleagues and they confirmed that no decisions were made regarding extradition,” he said, adding that the detention was prolonged because the extradition procedures are still in the process of being reviewed. He also said that Ukraine doesn’t demand any additional documentation in the case, as material which Georgia has already sent complies with international requirements for such cases.