PM Ivanishvili said that arguments based on which chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, decided to release from criminal responsibility one of those former prison officers, who was standing trial into the case of prison abuse scandal, were “insufficient and unconvincing.”
In a written statement on July 8, the PM asked the chief prosecutor “to find legal means” to revise his decision.
Total of seventeen former prison officials were standing trial into the case of prison abuse scandal, which broke out couple of weeks before the October 2012 parliamentary elections after videos of inmates’ torture and rape emerged.
The Tbilisi City Court delivered on June 14 a guilty verdict against sixteen former prison officials and approved a motion from chief prosecutor requesting release from criminal liability one former prison officer Vladimer Bedukadze, who according to his own admission was filming some of those videos, which were showing inmates’ abuse in the Gldani prison No.8 in Tbilisi.
Bedukadze, who said that he sneaked videotapes out of the prison and then made them public to expose widespread mistreatment of inmates, was facing charges involving torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners.
The chief prosecutor’s office said that Bedukadze was released from criminal responsibility through a special plea bargain deal because he had helped to disclose “systemic crime” of inmates’ inhuman treatment. It said that by making videos public, Bedukadze exposed not only systemic crimes that were taking place in the penitentiary, but also implicated himself in committing those crimes and did it despite of threat to his own personal safety and did it without having any self-interest. Some lawmakers from the Georgian Dream coalition have also criticized this decision of the chief prosecutor.
When during his press conference on July 3, the PM was asked about chief prosecutor’s decision to release Bedukadze from criminal liability, he responded that he was not aware about it, but added that if it was true it was unacceptable for him. He also said that he would study the issue and respond to this question later.
In a written statement released on July 8, the PM says: “Personally I have never interfered and I am not either going to interfere in any way in the work of prosecutor's office. It is obvious that unprecedented level of independence from the political leadership which has been granted to the prosecutor's office in recent months, theoretically, is possibly fraught with risk of making certain mistakes, but I still strongly believe, that public interest in independent prosecutor’s office is much higher than negative consequences, which may follow wrong and unjustified decisions in certain cases.”
“As far as Bedukadze’s case is concerned, I have familiarized with all the arguments, which served as a basis for this decision and I want to explicitly state that personally for me they [these arguments] are insufficient and unconvincing.”
“I am sure that no special circumstance whatsoever should serve as a basis for the full release from criminal liability of a person, who committed a torture,” the statement reads.
The PM also says that leniency showed to other accused men into the same case, which led to “lenient” jail sentences, “left sense of dissatisfaction.”
“I think it is inadmissible, especially when permanent practice of gross and mass human rights violation was actually established under the previous authorities. It is my view that these decisions will in the future obstruct efforts directed towards prevention of such grave crimes,” the PM said.
“I want to request the chief prosecutor, who unlike the judiciary represents part of the executive government and for that reason I can directly appeal to him, to critically review once again his decisions and, if he shares my views, to find legal means for revision [of these decision],” he added.
The chief prosecutor requested release of Bedukadze from criminal responsibility based on article 218 of the code of criminal procedure, which allows chief prosecutor to file such request “in special cases” if accused person helps to expose a grave crime. The motion has to be approved by the court. Before June, 2011 chief prosecutor had no right to apply this clause in respect of cases involving torture and inhuman treatment; but then the code was amended and this clause became applicable also to those who are accused of torture and inhuman treatment charges; it is still banned to apply this clause to those who have already been convicted for these crimes.