Georgia`s ex-defense minister sent to pre-trial detention
The Tbilisi City Court ruled today to send former defense and interior minister Bacho Akhalaia to pre-trial detention pending investigation into charges against him involving abuse of soldiers and illegal confinement.
The court ordered release of army chief of staff Giorgi Kalandadze and former commander of 4th army brigade Zurab Shamatava on GEL 20,000 bail each. The two army commanders face charges related to soldiers’ abuse.
The court delivered its decision after almost three hours of hearing in a courtroom packed by accused men’s relatives and supporters, among them a group of lawmakers from United National Movement party, as well as by journalists.
A preliminary court hearing into the case is scheduled for December 25, that will be followed by launch of trial in two weeks time.
The prosecution wanted pre-trial detention for all three accused men.
In case of Akhalaia the prosecution argued that in case of release, former defense and interior minister could have obstructed the investigation by possibly influencing the witnesses.
Prosecution’s another argument was that in case of release, Akhalaia could have fled the country. Akhalaia reportedly left Georgia shortly after the October 1 parliamentary elections, but on November 5 he announced about return back to Georgia and said he was ready to answer all the questions about “absurd” allegation against him; next day he was summoned for questioning in the prosecutor’s office and arrested.
Defense lawyers of the three accused men were requesting the judge to release their clients either on bail or under personal guarantee of 31 UNM lawmakers.
Meanwhile outside the court, a group of about two dozen supporters of Akhalaia and two former army commanders were holding a protest rally with some of them holding banners, reading: “Free Political Prisoners”.