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Saakashvili pardons Bacho Akhalaia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 5
President Saakashvili pardoned former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia in connection with the prison riot case on Sunday. The president called the accusations against Akhalaia concerning the case “anti-state and shameful.”

"It is not only unjustified from the legal point of view, but, it can be said without any exaggeration, it is shameful,” Saakashvili said, stressing that what happened in prison in 2006 was struggle against criminals’ control in prisons and Akhalaia acted in accordance with the president.

"It is nothing but shameful when thieves and prosecutors are fighting together against Akhalaia,” Saakashvili said, adding that Akhalaia was charged "based on the testimonies of several criminal bosses.”

Akhalaia was arrested on November 7, 2012, facing multiple criminal charges into three separate cases. In two of them, he was found not guilty, but he was convicted in the prison riot case.

"I am far from thinking that Bacho has not made serious mistakes, but all the charges brought by prosecutors before the court are groundless, and the riot case is simply shameful, dangerous and anti-state,” Saakashvili said.

The statement was followed by Akhalaia’s letter on his Facebook page. Akhalaia stated that the public should not give up fighting despite the “anti-state actions” of the new government of Georgia. Akhalaia accused the Georgian Dream coalition in destroying the “Rose Revolution achievements.” The former Defense Minister said that the new government has led the country back to Georgia's dark past and failed to fight for the state and people’s interests.

“However, we are not going to step back, we will go on our battle and gain victory in the battle for our country,” Akhalaia stated.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuahsvili assessed the president’s decision as “irresponsible,” stating that the president should not use his rights for narrow, party interests.

Minority member Akaki Minashvili stated that the president’s decision was based on state interests and revealed once again that organized crime was defeated and will not be re-born in the country.

Minister of Reintegration, Paata Zakareishvili, hopes that Akhalai’s pardon will be the last crime committed by Saakashvili. The Ministers assessed the action as anti-state and said that Akhalaia is being charged in some other cases as well.

“Thus, it will not be easy for Akhalaia to leave prison,” Zakareishvili said.

Analyst Kakha Kakhishvili believes that the president had no desire to pardon Akhalaia, but he had no other way, as Akhalaia’s friends are still the key figures of the UNM.

Analyst Gia Nodia believes that the president was motivated to pardon Akhalaia, as there are doubts concerning the political pursuit with regard to the former Defense Minister.

“The verdict against Akhalaia was based on the evidence of criminals that raise additional doubts. Those people had motivation to speak against Akhalaia,” Nodia stated.

Despite of presidential pardon, Akhalaia, who was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail on October 28, will remain detained as he still faces power abuse charges in an unrelated case in which he is in pre-trial detention pending trial.