TBILISI, DFWatch–In a controversial decision on Thursday, Tbilisi city court acquitted former defense and interior minister Bachana (“Bacho”) Akhalaia, of one of the charges against him.
The acquittal relates to a charge of abuse of military personnel and illegal deprivation of freedom during his tenure as Minster of Defense in 2009-12.
Giorgi (“Gigi”) Kalandadze, former chief of the Joint Army Staff, and six more Defense and Penitentiary officers charged along with Akhalaia have been acquitted too.
However, there still remain some charges against president Saakashvili’s former strongman. He is also charged with crimes he allegedly committed during his tenure as a Minister of Internal Affairs in 2012, and as head of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice between 2005 and 2009.
Relatives and members of the United National Movement who had gathered in the courtroom and outside the court building cheered and applauded when the verdict was announced.
Roland Akhalaia, father of Bacho and once powerful prosecutor in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, told journalists that he hopes all the other charges would be dropped too.
Akhalaia is also charged with abusing several police officers for political reasons during his tenure as interior minister and for brutally quelling a prison riot in 2006 that left seven people dead and tens injured, including guards and members of the special forces.
According to a statement released by the city court, altogether 50 hearings have been held in this case, and more than 120 witnesses have been questioned by the court. None of the defendants have plead quilty.
Bacho Akhalaia and his elder brother, Data, left the country soon after the October 1 parliamentary election. Bacho, however, returned soon after and was immediately arrested.
Data Akhalaia, the former chief of the Constitutional Security Department of the Interior Ministry, in Georgian called Kudi, is also has several charges against himself in absentia, most notably for having ordered a kidnapping and torture in 2006 of a young banker, Sandro Girgvliani ,that eventually led to the victim’s death.
Soon after his release, Gigi Kalandadze was hosted by President Miheil Saakashvili, who personally congratulated him with the acquittal and of being released from prison.