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Kalandadze released; Akhalaia remains in prison

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 12
Georgia does not have “an easy geopolitical situation,” President Mikheil Saakashvili said, while explaining why everyone should respect Georgia’s Armed Forces. The president went on to insist that Giorgi Kalandadze be returned to his position as the Chief of Staff of the Georgian Army and serve the country as loyally as before.

In his meeting with Kalandadze on Saturday, the President said that the Armed Forces should remain beyond politics even if politics plays without the rules.

But according to the Minister of Defence Irakli Alasania, Kalandadze may be suspended of his authority starting on November 12, because of the ongoing investigation. Alasania told the representatives of the Joint Staff (in Kalandadze’s presence) that they should continue protecting the country.

Based on the testimonies of five servicemen from the MoD, then Minister of Defence, Bacho Akhalaia, together with Kalandadze and the Chief of the 4th Brigade, Zurab Shamatava, are accused of verbal and physical abuse.

Kalandadze and Shamatava were released on 20, 000 GEL bail, but Akhalaia remains detained and will stay at Gldani No 8 penitentiary facility for 2 months for the illegal suppression of freedom and the violation of official duties.

Akhalaia’s lawyers say there are no grounds for his detention and demand his release. Ioseb Janashia said that if it was possible to release the two other detainees on monetary bonds, why the same can’t be done with Akhalaia. He said there is no “official sufferer” mentioned in the case except from the witnesses who talk about the violation of their rights. The lawyer said the court made “a political decision” by neglecting procedural norms.

After the video footage showing the torture and abuse of inmates at the Gldani penitentiary facility became public on September 18, Bacho Akhalaia left his post at the MIA and went abroad. Having returned to Georgia on November 5, the former minister said he would cooperate with any investigation in order to put an end to “the cascade of accusations” against him.

In an exclusive interview with Liberali magazine, Akhalaia said his detention is a political decision that lacks any legal basis. The former minister said he went from working in the penitentiary system to the Defence Ministry in hard times when the army was “demoralized” after the Georgian-Russian war, thus he spent all his time at the MoD to mobilize the soldiers.

“Shocked” to see the scandalous prison footage this September, he said it will not be easy to attach prison violations to him.

Akhalaia also denied connections with the prison riot in 2006; in his opinion it was “the last struggle” of the thieves-in-law to regain control in the prisons. Stressing that he has a lot of enemies, Akhalaia said his team prevented Georgia from being influenced by the criminals while “the thieves still remain thieves.”

He said although he had been mentioned in a negative context during the past few years, he wondered where the evidence is that connects him to anything.

General Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said on Maestro TV on November 10, that “the episode” which became the reason for detention of the three men was enough, but the “new episodes” connected with torture will become public on Monday.

Akhalaia’s court session is scheduled on December 25, 2012, but his lawyers have appealed to change the preliminary detention with parole or bond payment.