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Additional Torture Charges Filed Against Former Interior Ministry Official
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 9 Jan.'14 / 19:52

Criminal charges involving torturing a man to death to force him to confess in terrorism in 2011 were filed against former interior ministry official, Megis Kardava, who is wanted by the police in connection to number of other criminal charges.

Megis Kardava, who is on Interpol’s wanted list upon the Georgian authorities’ request, was deputy head of Interior Ministry’s regional division in Samegrelo in 2011. New charges against Kardava are related to the case of Eldar Kobalia, a 21-year-old man, who was detained by the police on April 2, 2011 in Samegrelo region and who died nine days later while in prison in Tbilisi.

Eldar Kobalia, who was a resident of Gali district in breakaway Abkhazia, was arrested in the village of Ingiri of Zugdidi municipality on the Georgian-controlled side of the administrative border, where he was visiting his relatives.
 
Prosecutor’s office said in a statement on January 8 that after Kobalia was arrested he was taken to the local police station in Zugdidi where he was “tortured” as Megis Kardava was demanding from him to confess in preparing terrorist acts. Megis Kardava’s defense lawyer, Malkhaz Velijanashvili, said charges were fabricated and based on false testimonies.

At the time of Kobalia’s detention, several people were already in police custody facing charges over being behind series of explosions in Tbilisi and in Samegrelo region. Two explosions in two separate locations of the capital city left one woman dead in November, 2010; the same group of people were also accused of being behind an explosion that took place close to the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi in September, 2010; the interior ministry claimed that the group was acting upon instructions of a Russian military officer who was serving in breakaway Abkhazia.
 
According to prosecutor’s office, in early hours of April 5 “beaten and tortured” Kobalia was transferred from Zugdidi to Tbilisi and placed at first in the Interior Ministry’s detention facility and then in prison No.8 in Gldani. Prosecutor’s office said that for six days Kobalia was in a holding cell of the prison, where normally inmates can be held only for few hours. On April 11, 2011, according to prosecutor’s office, Kobalia was again beaten and tutored, including with electric shock, “for hours” by Kardava and then deputy head of the penitentiary department Gaga Mkurnalidze; the latter is now serving a prison term after he was found guilty in a separate case of prisoners’ abuse. Additional charges were also filed against Mkurnalidze in connection to Kobalia’s case. Prosecutor’s office said that Kobalia died in prison later on the same day, April 11, 2011.   
 
Two other inmates of the same prison, Merab Kolbaia and Koba Matkava, were also tortured together with Kobalia on April 11 as Megis Kardava was demanding from them too to confess in terrorism, prosecutor’s office said.

Merab Kolbaia was among those persons who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in June 2011 after court found them guilty of being behind series of explosions in Tbilisi and in western Georgia. Although during hearings in the court of first instance, held in 2011 behind the closed doors, Kolbaia pleaded guilty, almost year later when the case was taken to the Court of Appeals, Kolbaia asked the judge to be re-questioned as his initial confession was obtained as a result of torture; request was declined by the judge and verdict of lower court sentencing Kolbaia to 30 years in jail was upheld by the Court of Appeals in May, 2012. As a result of 2012 amnesty and other legislative amendments, his prison term was truncated and he has to serve about nine more years. In 2013 he testified before prosecutors about his claims of being tortured and his defense lawyer hopes that new circumstance in the case would lead to review of the case.

Less than two weeks before these new charges were brought against Megis Kardava, he was charged on December 26 in separate but similar case involving torturing Malkhaz Arkania to obtain confession in terrorism in 2011. Malkhaz Arkania, also a resident of the Gali district, was arrested in February 2011 and convicted on drug-related charges; he was released from jail last year after his prison term was truncated as a result of the amnesty. One year and three months before videos depicting sexual and other abuse of inmates in the Gldani prison emerged in September 2012, Arkania wrote about cases of torture and rape in that prison in a letter made public via his lawyer in June 2011.

A defense lawyer, Lekso Arkania, who was representing Eldar Kobalia’s family, said on January 9 that the family would not be against of Kobalia’s body to be exhumed and examined to provide additional evidence in support of the claims that the man was tortured. He said that Kobalia had broken ribs and fractured heel bones. He said that in 2011 it took him several days before finding out where Kobalia was buried in Tbilisi as the authorities at the time were reluctant to reveal information and were even threatening the family to keep silence about the death of Kobalia. His body was re-buried from Tbilisi to his native village in the Gali district. The lawyer called on the relevant Georgian authorities to reach out authorities in breakaway Abkhazia to arrange exhumation and examination of Kobalia’s body.

The statement of prosecutor’s office released on January 8 also says without going into details that on the night when Eldar Kobalia was brought into the police station in Zugdidi on April 2, 2011, then interior minister Vano Merabishvili was in the headquarters of the Interior Ministry’s Samegrelo division in Zugdidi. “Investigation is ongoing to establish culpability of those who committed illegal acts against Kolbaia in Zugdidi,” reads the statement.

Former head of the prison No.8 in Tbilisi, Alexandre Mukhadze, was charged with exceeding of powers in connection to Kobalia’s case, according to the prosecutor’s office. Mukhadze, who is also facing other criminal charges, is on Interpol’s wanted list upon the Georgian authorities’ request.

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