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Akhalaia Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

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Tbilisi City Court found former head of prison system chief and ex-defense minister, Bacho Akhalaia, guilty of power abuse and torture in two separate cases and sentenced to seven years and six months in jail.

Akhalaia was found guilty of power abuse in case over his alleged role in providing “privileged” conditions in prison to four former interior ministry officers, who in 2006, when Akhalaia was prison system chief, were convicted for high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani. Prosecution claimed that Akhalaia made four convicts’ prison sentence a mere formality and it was part of an alleged deal in exchange of convicts keeping silence over actual events surrounding Girgvliani murder and concealing culpability of other former interior ministry officials, including of Akhalaia’s brother, Data Akhalaia, who at the time served as head of the Department for Constitutional Security.

In another case, Akhalaia was found guilty of torture – charges involving prosecution’s claims that he beat up and treated inhumanly six inmates in 2006. In this case he was also facing charges of exceeding official authorities, but the court acquitted him of this charge.

Akhalaia, who was not present in courtroom when judge delivered verdict on October 22, denies allegations as part of political persecution against him. His lawyers were saying that the case was “fabricated” and “pressure” was exerted against the judge to deliver the guilty verdict.

Akhalaia was in pre-trial detention since November, 2012. Since then he stood in several separate trials.

In two of them he was acquitted on charges of exceeding official powers, illegal confinement and torture in four separate cases.

In late October, 2013 he was found guilty in a trial over inhuman treatment of inmates in case related to 2006 prison riot. He was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail; but then President Saakashvili pardoned him in early November, 2013.

In July, 2014 additional charges of power abuse and torture were brought against Bacho Akhalaia; prosecution accuses him of “organizing torture and sexual abuse” of detainees in 2011 while serving as defense minister.

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