TBILISI, DFWatch — A former minister and Saakashvili’s loyalist thought to have been engaged in prison abuse, will serve his seven week preliminary detention at Gldani prison, where most of the torture took place.
Bacho Akhalaia was prison minister from 2005 to 2008. During this period there was a riot at one of the capital’s prisons, for which he has been blamed by some. Later he became defense minister. Military personnel have given testimonies to the prosecutor’s office about physical and verbal abuse at the hands of Bacho Akhalaia, and these testimonies was the reason he was detained right now.
Last July he was appointed as interior minister, but he resigned, when the prison abuse scandal broke in September. Media published several videos which showed prisoners being beaten, ridiculed and sexually humiliated. Most of the videos were filmed at Gldani prison. In this period prisoners and three relatives who spend day and night outside of the prison told many stories of how Bacho Akhalaia had been personally involved in the abuse.
November 7, he was detained together with Giorgi Kalandadze, head of the general headquarters and Zurab Shamatava, commander of elite fourth brigade. All of them were charged with abuse of power, and Bacho Akhalaia was additionally charged with illegal deprivation of freedom, which is punishable by up to ten years in jail.
By Tbilisi City Court’s decision the other two were released against USD 12 000 bail, but Akhalaia was sentenced to preliminary detention. His lawyers plan to appeal the decision in the Appeals Court today.
Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili yesterday said on Radio Palitra that it is possible another charge will be added to Akhalai’s case; that of causing a prison riot. The issue is currently under review, the prosecutor responded, while asked by representatives of the parliamentary minority, who claim that the charges against Akhalaia are weak and questioned the truth of the testimonies, and the fact that no other evidence was presented.
Meanwhile, Giorgi Kalandadze paid the bail and was freed, while Shamatava’s family, according to his lawyer, is gathering bail money now so he also can get released.
The first trial hearing in the case is scheduled for December 25 at Tbilisi City Court.