Tbilisi City Court delivered verdict on June 14 into the case of prison abuse scandal, which broke out just ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections after shocking videos of inmates’ torture were shown on television stations in September, 2012.
Seventeen former prison officials, many of them arrested shortly after the videos emerged, were standing trial on charges involving torture and inhuman treatment of inmates in the Gldani prison No.8 in Tbilisi.
The guilty verdict into these charges was delivered against six accused men, who were sentenced to various prison terms; eight were also sentenced for the same crime to various prison terms, but through plea bargaining deals with prosecution and two accused men were found guilty of not reporting the crime.
One out of these seventeen men, Vladimer Bedukadze, avoided punishment after the prosecution decided to relieve him of criminal responsibility as a result of plea bargaining deal.
Bedukadze, a former prison guard who was facing charges related to torture and inhuman treatment of inmates, admitted that the videos showing prisoners’ abuse was filmed by him. At the time when the videos were shown on TV in September, 2012, Bedukadze was in Belgium and returned back to Georgia after the October, 2012 parliamentary elections; he was detained but released on GEL 2,000 bail pending trial.
“Despite existence of the fact of committing the crime by Vladimer Bedukadze, he has been released of criminal responsibility upon a motion from the Georgian chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, on the basis of plea bargaining agreement on ‘special cooperation’,” the Tbilisi City Court said on June 14.
Such a motion from the prosecution was expected after chief prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said while speaking about Bedukadze a week ago that he had the right to drop charges against Bedukadze on the grounds that the latter helped to uncover “systemic crimes” in the Georgian penitentiary.
“This person himself made public these videos and the society would have never learned about these crimes if not release of these videos,” Kbilashvili told the public TV on June 7.
“Unveiling of these videos saved thousands of other inmates from being subjected to inhuman treatment,” said Kbilashvili, who denied allegations that Bedukadze made the videos public only after receiving money from the Georgian Dream coalition; Kbilashvili said Bedukadze was acting without having self-interest.
Trial into the case was ongoing behind the closed doors; court cited sensitivity of the case and need of “protection of privacy of individuals involved in the court proceedings.”
Former deputy head of the penitentiary department Gaga Mkurnalidze was sentenced to three years, four months and 15 days in prison and fined with GEL 3,000; former head of the Gldani prison No.8 Davit Khutchua and former deputy head of the same prison Victor Kacheishvili were sentenced to three years and three months in jail and fined with GEL 2,000 each; two other ex-officials from the same prison Oleg Patsatsia and Levan Purtskhvanidze were sentenced to six years and nine months in jail; Giorgi Kvaratskhelia, a former official of the Gldani prison was sentenced to three years in jail and fined with GEL 2,000.
Eight former prison official who made plea bargaining with the prosecution are: Mamuka Chkhitunidze and Levan Pkhaladze, both sentenced to five years in jail; Koba Chikvatia, who was sentenced to two years in jail and fined with GEL 2,000; Guram Tsomaia – sentenced to year and a half in jail and fined with GEL 2,000; Boris Parulava and Manuchar Lomtadze – both sentenced to nine months in jail (which they have already spent in pretrial detention) with the latter also fined with GEL 2,000; Alexandre Janjgava and Davit Metskhovrishvili – both sentenced to six months in jail (both were detained in the courtroom after the verdict was announced as they were not held in pretrial detention).
The court decided to change charges against two former prison officials, Temur Chachia and Mate Elbakidze, and to qualify their criminal offense as not reporting the crime; the both were sentenced to year and a half in jail and fined with GEL 2,000 each.