TBILISI, DFWatch – The brother of Interior Minister Bacho Abkhalaia, Data Akhalaia, has been appointed to the post of deputy defense minister. He was head of the Interior Ministry’s Constitutional Security Department.
Data Akhalaia resigned after it became known that as a result of government changes his brother Bacho Akhalaia, who used to be Defense Minister, was appointed to the post of Interior Minister.
The Constitutional Security Department, locally known as “Kudi”, is a highly controversial branch of the police with wide powers that has conducted raids and interrogation of opposition activists, according to some in a manner fit for the old Soviet secret police, KGB. The Interior Ministry has not disclosed who was head of the force until it confirmed it was Data Akhalaia in the statement saying that he had resigned.
Data Akhalaia was involved in the controversial Sandro Girgvliani case in 2005. The case, which also made a serious dent in Vano Merabishvili’s reputation, concerned the kidnapping and brutal murder of a young bank employee. Right before the murder, there was a dispute between the victim, Merabishvili’s wife and other persons close to the Interior Minister.
The dispute took place in one of Tbilisi’s fashionable bars. The murder caused an uproar, and part of society demanded Merabishvili’s resignation, but President Saakashvili stood by his most effective and devoted minister.
There were several of the Interior Ministry’s top people in the bar during the dispute, which was followed by the kidnapping and killing of a young person. Among them was Data Akhalaia, chair of the fear-inspiring Constitutional Security Department. He together with his brother, Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, are named as the main candidates for Interior Ministry. Both brothers are associated with political pressure and political violence.
After this incident in 2005, Data Akhalaia officially left his post, but later it was repeatedly reported that he had remained in his position. The Interior Ministry denied it and called it rumors, but now they officially reported that Akhalaia had resigned because his brother was to be appointed as minister in the same government body and according to Georgian law this would be conflict of interest and is prohibited.
Now Data Akhalaia is has been appointed Deputy Defense Minister and this is a ministry which was chaired by his brother before being appointed as Interior Minister. The Defense Ministry officially confirms this.
After Vano Merabishvili left as Interior Minister, several officials considered as his staff left their positions. They were, Shota Utiashvili, former head of the department for analysis, Zaza Gogava, chair of the border police and deputy Interior Minister. But there is no information about those people’s current positions.