Court of Appeals in Tbilisi upheld on December 4 a verdict acquitting former defense minister Bacho Akhalaia on charges of exceeding official powers, illegal confinement and torture into three separate cases, but it partially overruled the lower court’s verdict in respect of two co-defendants sentencing them to a jail term.
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. He was also accused of inhuman treatment of more than dozen of army personnel in February, 2010 when he served as defense minister. On August 1, 2013 the Tbilisi City Court found him not guilty of these charges and the prosecution took the case to the Court of Appeals.
Apart of Akhalaia seven co-defendants were standing trial into these cases. Four of them were fully acquitted together with Akhalaia.
But the Court of Appeals partially overruled verdict in respect of three co-defendants, including former army chief of staff Giorgi Kalandadze.
Although Kalandadze’s acquittal verdict in respect of illegal confinement and exceeding power charges was upheld, the Court of Appeals found him guilty of “insulting” his subordinates at the Vaziani military base in October, 2011 when he was deputy chief of army staff. The Court of Appeals ruled that Kalandadze should be banned from holding official posts for three months for this offense, but he was exempted from this punishment based on amnesty act, which the Parliament passed in December, 2012.
The Court of Appeals changed lower court’s verdict in respect of former commander of the 4th infantry brigade Zurab Shamatava and former army sergeant from the same brigade Alexandre Gorgadze. The lower court found them guilty of beating their subordinates and sentenced them to 140 hours of community work; they, however, were exempted from this punishment because of the amnesty act.
But the Court of Appeals ruled that the offense committed by Shamatava and Gorgadze constituted exceeding official powers and sentenced them to 3 years and 9 months in jail (original sentence was 5-year imprisonment, but it was truncated because to amnesty act). Both Shamatava and Gorgadze were arrested in the courtroom after the verdict was announced on December 4.
In a written statement Bacho Akhalaia condemned ruling against Shamatava and Gorgadze as “a verdict against the Georgian army and the Georgian heroes”
Apart of these cases Akhalaia went through to two other separate, unrelated trials since he was arrested in early November, 2012.
In one of those trials he was found not guilty of charges involving torture and inhuman treatment of seven special task force servicemen when he served as interior minister in August, 2012.
But in late October, 2013 he was found guilty in a trial over inhuman treatment of inmates in 2006 when he served as prison system chief; he was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail; but then President Saakashvili pardoned him.