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Ex-Defense Minister Akhalaia Acquitted, Remains Detained Pending Separate Trial
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 Aug.'13 / 13:27

Ex-defense minister and former interior minister, Bacho Akhalaia, was found not guilty of charges involving exceeding official powers, illegal confinement and torture into three separate cases.

The Tbilisi City Court delivered the verdict on Thursday morning after five months of trial, involving questioning of over 150 prosecution and defense witnesses.

Although Akhalaia has been acquitted of all charges facing in this trial, he still remains in detention as he is standing trial into separate, unrelated cases.

Akhalaia was arrested in early November, 2012 and initially charged with “exceeding official powers” involving an allegation of abuse of soldiers in October, 2011 when he was the defense minister.

He was then charged with “illegal deprivation of freedom” involving an allegation of beating a man and then holding him in illegal confinement for several hours in September, 2011.

Under the torture charges, which were added against Akhalaia in mid-November, he was accused of inhuman treatment of more than dozen of army personnel in February, 2010 when he served as defense minister.

Apart of Akhalaia seven other co-defendants were standing trial into these cases, including former army chief of staff Giorgi Kalandadze, who was also found not guilty.

Other co-defendants were also fully acquitted; only exceptions were former commander of the 4th infantry brigade Zurab Shamatava and former army sergeant Alexandre Gorgadze, who were found guilty of physically insulting soldiers in one case each; both were sentenced to 140 hours of community work, but they were exempted from this punishment because of the amnesty act passed by the Parliament in December.

Prosecutor Irakli Nadareishvili told journalists after the verdict was delivered that the prosecution would appeal it to the higher court.

Bacho Akhalaia is also standing trial into separate case involving charges related to torture, inhuman treatment and abuse of power into the case of alleged mistreatment of seven special task force servicemen in August, 2012 when Akhalaia served as interior minister. The trial is still ongoing.

Akhalai was also charged with abuse of power involving allegations that he beat up several inmates when he served as prison system chief in March, 2006, which led to a riot in the Tbilisi prison No.5 that claimed the life of seven inmates.

Akhalaia denies charges in both of these cases, like he was denying charges into those cases in which he was acquitted on August 1.

After judge Giorgi Darakhvelidze announced the acquittal verdict, the courtroom packed by supporters and family members of defendants, as well as some UNM lawmakers, burst into applause.

Few hours after the verdict was delivered, President Saakashvili received in the presidential palace in Tbilisi former chief of army staff, Giorgi Kalandadze, who was acquitted, and welcomed the court verdict as a “restoration of justice, although with delay.”

In a live televised meeting President Saakashvili told Kalandadze: “I had no doubt whatsoever that you all were innocent. I said it nine months ago when I met you here, but it is regrettable that patriots like you and like those others who were acquitted today had to waste your time [on trial].”

Kalandadze thanked judge Giorgi Darakhvelidze for, as he put it,“not yielding pressure” and for deciding in favor of acquittal.

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