New Georgia government detains army general, ex-minister

Wed Nov 7, 2012 6:41am EST
 
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By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - The Georgian government detained the armed forces' chief of staff on Wednesday on suspicion of abuse of power, stepping up what the opposition says is political persecution of President Mikheil Saakashvili's allies.

New Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's coalition said after ousting Saakashvili's party in an election last month that former officials suspected of crimes would be prosecuted.

It began acting on its promise on Tuesday by detaining Bacho Akhalaia, a former interior and defense minister. General Georgy Kalandadze, the military chief of staff, and another army commander were brought in for questioning early on Wednesday.

The opposition fears a witch hunt now that Saakashvili's nine-year dominance has ended in the former Soviet republic, a focus of tensions between Russia and the West and a transit country for Caspian Sea oil and gas exports to Europe.

Akhalaia, who quit as interior minister over a prison abuse scandal shortly before the election, remained in detention at the prosecutor general's office after being questioned for three hours, his lawyer said.

"The reason for his detention was that during his work as a defense minister he allegedly insulted several officers in the presence of others," attorney David Dekanoidze told reporters.

"I've never ever heard such an absurd reason for detention," Dekanoidze said.

Chief prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said Kalandadze and Zurab Shamatava, commander of the army's Fourth Brigade, faced similar accusations. He said state investigators had evidence that Akhalaia, Kalandadze and Shamatava had insulted six servicemen in October 2011.   Continued...

 
Georgia's Defence Minister Irakli Alasania speaks to the media at the military base in Mukhrovani outside Tbilisi, November 7, 2012. The Georgian government detained the armed forces' chief of staff on Wednesday on suspicion of abuse of power, stepping up what the opposition says is political persecution of President Mikheil Saakashvili's allies. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili