Court in Georgia keeps ex-minister in custody

Fri Nov 9, 2012 10:45am EST
 
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By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - A Georgian court decided on Friday to keep a former minister in custody, but freed two army commanders on bail after they were charged with abuse of power.

The case has raised concerns that the new government led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili is waging a political vendetta.

The new prime minister vowed to pursue former officials suspected of wrongdoing after his coalition ousted President Mikheil Saakashvili's party in a parliamentary poll last month.

With the end of Saakashvili's nine-year dominance of the political scene in the Caucasus state, his allies fear Ivanishvili's government is orchestrating a witch hunt.

Prosecutors charged Bacho Akhalaia, a former interior and defense minister, Georgy Kalandadze, the army's chief-of-staff, and another army commander with abuse of power. Akhalaia was also charged with illegal confinement.

Prosecutors had requested that all three defendants be held in pre-trial detention.

Tbilisi city court ordered Akhalaia detained for two months before trial and set bail at 20,000 lari ($12,000) for each of the two army officials, their lawyers said.

Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said on Wednesday state investigators had evidence that Akhalaia, Kalandadze and Zurab Shamatava, commander of the army's Fourth Brigade, had insulted six servicemen in October 2011.   Continued...

 
A supporter of former Interior and Defence Minister Bacho Akhalaia holds a sign during a protest outside the city court building in Tbilisi, November 9, 2012. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili