TBILISI, DFWatch – After releasing the scandalous footage of prisoner abuse, Georgia’s powerful interior minister, who is suspected to be behind these incidents, has been forced to leave his post. For three days people all over Georgia have been demanding that Bacho Akhalaia resign and that he is put on trial.
Akhalaia is considered to be one of President Saakashvili’s most faithful loyalists.
For the last two months, Akhalaia has been interior minister, and before that he served two years as defense minister, but today what people remember is his time as prison minister a few years back, during which he is believed to have laid the foundations for the system of abuse which shocked Georgians this week.
“This demand is not surprising,” says Khatuna Lagazidze, independent expert, who used to be chair of Analytic Department of Georgia’s Security Council. “There were certain facts which everybody ignored, and so society already considers it a system established by Akhalaia.”
The minister has kept out of the public’s view for the three days the rallies have lasted. Then, late Thursday evening, the interior ministry released a statement from him asking the president to resign. His reason is that he is concerned by the crime which was revealed at Prison No 8 in Gldani.”
“I feel moral and political responsibility that we weren’t able to prevent this horrible practice. That’s why I appealed to president with request to resign,” his statement reads on police.ge.
The resignation of Akhalaia was greeted by cheers at protest rallies in Tbilisi and other large cities. Statements were made that it is not enough and he should be put on trial.
Ramaz Sakvarelidze, sociologist and professor at Tbilisi State University, says that ‘the resignation of Akhalaia means that the government is trying to survive.”
He says in this case it is important whether he really will be removed from government or whether he will in practice retain his powers from behind the scenes.
This happened a few years ago when his elder brother Data Akhalaia was formally fired from the post of head of the feared domestice intelligence service, the Constitutional Security Department, or “Kudi”. In fact, he retained his powers after his resignation. A few years later he was officially appointed as head of the “Kudi”.
That’s why it is believed in Tbilisi that the same thing may happen in the case of Bacho Akhalaia. Their father Roland Akhalaia, who for years used to be Chief Prosecutor and governor of the Samegrelo reigion in western Georgia, is now a majoritarian candidate for the ruling National Movement party in the town of Zugdidi and still remains the most influential person there.
Ekaterine Zghuladze, Deputy Interior Minister, will step in as acting interior minister until a permanent replacement is found.