Former Interior Minister and President Saakashvili’s close ally, Bacho Akhalaia, who had to resign amid prison abuse scandal in September and who reportedly left the country after the parliamentary elections, said on November 5 that he had returned back to Georgia and was ready to answer all the questions about “absurd” and “idiotic” allegations voiced against him.
Akhalaia, who was prison system chief in 2005-2008 before becoming Defense Minister, was appointed as Interior Minister in July, 2012. After the shocking videos of prisoners’ torture emerged less than two weeks before the October 1 parliamentary elections, Akhalaia was one of the targets of public anger because of persisting allegations that at the time he was informally still overseeing prison system. Akhalaia, however, says it is one of many “absurd” allegations voiced against him.
After the parliamentary elections, like former justice minister Zurab Adeishvili and former defense minister Dimitri Shashkin, Akhalaia too left the country, but on November 5 he released a written statement saying that he was back. He says that after the elections he decided to temporarily leave the country in order not to give pretext to the Georgian Dream to accuse him of trying to obstruct peaceful handover of government.
After the written statement was released, Akhalaia also gave two interviews on November 5 – one to RFE/RL Georgian service and another one to Rustavi 2 TV, which was recorded in Kutaisi.
“I hear volley of allegations against me ranging from corruption to torture and I returned back to Georgia to help clarify whether I have committed any crime or not. That’s why I am ready to answer any question thoroughly in any format – whether it is investigative committee in the Parliament or prosecutor’s office,” Akhalaia said.
“There have been allegations and now they [new authorities] have to prove them,” he said. “I am not fleeing anywhere, I will appear wherever they summon me and I will answer to any question.”
Asked by Rustavi 2 TV about speculation that there had been confrontation between him and former PM Vano Merabishvili, Akhalaia responded: “Ask me serious questions.”
In his written statement Akhalaia says that the Georgian Dream representatives “have intensified dirty smear campaign against me recently.”
“One part of politicians speculates that I am responsible for corruption and torturing people and that I left the country to avoid justice,” Akhalaia says. “I assume responsibility for each and every action and step I made. Although recent peremptory statements from the Georgian Dream representatives about me proves that my prosecution won’t be free from politics and although I believe that their [the Georgian Dram’s] goal is to stage political show instead of delivering on plenty of their promises, I returned to Georgia and state that I am ready to answer any question related to my activities in case of investigation by relevant agencies.”
“I do not represent and do not speak on behalf of any political group, but I have to note that I have always shared and still share President Saakashvili’s policy and I have always been in service to the Georgian state and Georgian citizens,” Akhalaia writes.
In his statement Akhalaia thanks President Saakashvili for making him “part of vitally important, but painful reforms” while serving as the prison system chief and the Defense Minister.