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More Interior Ministry officials detained

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, November 16
Nine officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) have been accused of using internet technology for gathering personal and commercial information about Georgian citizens. The accusations came after a 17-hour interrogation on Thursday morning.

Chief of the Constitutional Security Department (CSD) Levan Kardava and CSD official Giorgi Kavlashvili were among the detainees.

Kavlashvili is accused of violating his official duties and damaging the property of Kartu Group. Kardava is accused of violating official duties and orchestrating the kidnapping of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s bodyguard Besik Surmava. In September Surmava disappeared for two days before someone under his name released “secret footage” about Georgian Dream members via Youtube.

The MIA officials remain in custody in Digomi; they face up to three years detention if found guilty. Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani told journalists “This is not a political detention.” before adding that "everyone is equal under the law."

Commenting about former Minister of Internal Affairs Bacho Akhalaia’s transfer from Gldani to Ortachala Prison, Tsulukiani said this decision is aimed at better protecting Akhalaia's physical and psychological safety. Tsulukiani told Maestro TV that inmates of Gldani Prison were aggressive towards Akhalaia and several even threatened to kill the former minister.

Minister Tsulukiani said at this point Ortachala Prison is the best option for Akhalaia's personal safety. She said Akhalaia is in solitary confinement in a wing of the prison; he has a television and can walk in the hall. The Justice Minister said Akhalaia's conditions are appropriate for a former minister facing serious charges. Tsulukiani said the former government also used to keep state officials in detention at the same facility.

Bacho Akhalaia who is charged with violation of official duties, illegal suppression of freedom and torture, told members of a monitoring group that although the security guards at Ortachala are doing their best to ensure his safety he cannot be held in the same facility as "thieves-in-law". “I may be killed here.” he told Kakheti Information Centre.

Human rights protectors Dimitri Lortkipanidze and Soso Manjavidze have expressed disapproval at Akhalaia being housed in a facility with 35 convicts and have suggested transferring him to Matrosov street Jail.

According to Manjavidze all the inmates at Ortachala worry that if Akhalaia is killed they will be blamed for his murder. Manjavidze added that the prisoners feel “moral discomfort” knowing that Akhalalia is in close proximity. As Head of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice Akhalaia was responsible for the incarceration of many of the current inmates at Ortachala.

Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili’s has allowed Georgian Dream MP Eka Beselia and United National Movement MP Ako Minashvili to visit Akhalaia any time without limit for the next two weeks. According to Minashvili the Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Sozar Subari has promised to transfer Akhalaia to other facility away from "the thieves-in-law".