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Bacho Akhalaia Arrested
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 7 Nov.'12 / 01:08

Bacho Akhalaia, who held several senior posts in President Saakashvili's government since 2005, was arrested four hours after questioning in connection to an ongoing investigation into the alleged case of exceeding official powers, his lawyer told journalists outside chief prosecutor's office after midnight on November 7.

"Surprisingly for us Mr. Akhalaia has been arrested, but no charges have yet been brought against him. Reason for launching investigation is obviously absurd," lawyer Davit Dekanoidze said. "The case involves a period when [Akhalaia] served as Defense Minister; several dismissed employees [of MoD] complain that they have allegedly been insulted by him [Akhalaia] in presence of several other persons. That's the reason for arresting Mr. Akhalaia; that's obviously absurd."

Akhalaia, who was prison system chief in 2005-2008 before becoming Defense Minister, was appointed as Interior Minister in July, 2012; he had to resign in September amid protests after shocking videos of prisoners' torture emerged less than two weeks before the October 1 parliamentary elections.  

Akhalaia, who reportedly left Georgia after the parliamentary elections, announced on November 5 that he returned back to the country and was ready to answer all the questions about “absurd” and “idiotic” allegations voiced against him ranging from torturing and mistreating inmates to corruption.

On the evening of November 6, new chief prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili announced that Akhalaia was summoned for questioning "as a witness" in connection to an investigation into "the case of abuse of public office."

Akhalaia arrived in the prosecutor's office at 8:30pm local time on November 6; initially he refused to use lawyer's services, but two hours after the questioning started his lawyer arrived.

Lawyer Davit Dekanoidze said that investigation was launched by the prosecutor's office on November 5 and "today they already arrested him."

The lawyer also said that the investigation was launched based on part 3 of article 333 of the criminal code, which deals with exceeding official powers for multiple times through the use of violence or weapon that results into insult of one's dignity; punishment for the crime under this provision might be imprisonment from five to eight years.

Charges have to be brought against Akhalaia within 48 hours after his arrest, the lawyer said. He also said that Akhalaia had not been asked any question about issues related to his service as prison system chief.

A lawmaker from President Saakashvili's UNM party, Akaki Minashvili, who was among several UNM members waiting for outcome of the questioning outside the prosecutor's office, said that Akhalaia's arrest was politically motivated.

"I think it is obvious that it is farce... This arrest shows that they [the new authorities] are coward; Akhalaia returned yesterday and they got confused; they launched investigation yesterday and today they arrested him. It will backfire, because the society sees that its a political persecution. They [the new authorities] are very weak and they will soon be broken," MP Minashvili said.

The prosecutor's office has not yet commented.

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