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Akhalaia found not guilty of certain charges

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, August 2
Former defense minister and interior minister Bacho Akhalaia was found not guilty of exceeding official powers, illegal confinement and torture. The verdict delivered by the Tbilisi city court on August 1st caused satisfaction for the defendant, his relatives, President Saakashvili and the United National Movement (UNM) party. However, certain members of Georgian Dream have already spoken about the court's "incorrect decision."

The Tbilisi City Court delivered the verdict on Thursday morning after a several month trial.

Apart from Akhalaia, seven other individuals were charged in the case, including former army chief of staff Giorgi Kalandadze. All were found not guilty.

Akhalaia still remains in detention. He is facing trial in several other unrelated cases.

Among the cases Akhalaia is waiting to stand trial for is his supposed mistreatment of seven special task force servicemen in August 2012, while interior minister. Akhalaia has also been charged with misconduct in the 2006 riot at Prison #5 in Tbilisi. Akahalia is accused of beating up several inmates while serving as head of the penitentiary department of the ministry of justice.

Chief-Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili thinks that Akhalaia should have been found guilty. He also believes that the prosecution was well-prepared for the trial and all charges were backed up by evidence.

"It is my personal view that Akhalaia should have been found guilty." Kbilashvili stated. The chief prosecutor’s office will appeal the verdict.

Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani stated that the verdict proved the courts are free from government interference.

Georgian Dream MP Levan Berdzenishvili said he will not comment concerning the court’s decision. "We have shown, however, that the judiciary is free. I do not remember such a decision being made under the governance of Eduard Shevardznadze or Mikheil Saakashvili." Berdzenishvili said.

Georgian Dream MP Eka Beselia was not as moderate as Berdzenishili. She wrote on her Facebook page that "Judge Darakhvelidze, who made the verdict, served in Samagrelo and arrested Georgian Dream activists… how could this judge could be fair?" Beselia asked.

President Mikheil Saakashvili stressed that "he has always believed in innocence of the nine individuals" and expressed regret that “such patriots were barred from public service by the charges."

According to Bacho Akhalaia's father, Roland Akhalaia, "the court made the most significant decision in its history." He added that he attended each trial and the charges "were invented" against his son.

Head of the non-parliamentary Democratic-Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze stated that the court's decision concerning Akhalaia indicates the weakness of the Georgian Dream coalition.

Lawyer Lia Mukhashavria assessed the court’s verdict negatively, stating that the court should have allowed all the evidence relating to the case to be released.

"I don't deny that the prosecutor's office failed in presenting its case but the court did not fulfill its duty…the process was a tragedy for Georgia." Mukhashavria told Liberali.