Chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, has been criticized, including by some GD lawmakers, for his decision to release from criminal liability one of those seventeen former prison officials who were standing trial into the case of prison abuse scandal, which broke out couple of weeks before the October 2012 parliamentary elections after videos of inmates’ torture emerged.
The Tbilisi City Court delivered on June 14 a guilty verdict against sixteen former prison officials and approved a motion from chief prosecutor requesting release from criminal liability one former prison officer Vladimer Bedukadze, who according to his own admission was filming some of those videos, which were showing inmates’ abuse in the Gldani prison No.8 in Tbilisi.
Bedukadze, who said that he sneaked videotapes out of the prison and then made them public to expose widespread mistreatment of inmates, was facing charges involving torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners.
Georgian Dream lawmaker, Tina Khidasheli, told Rustavi 2 TV’s talk show Position on June 18 that the decision by the chief prosecutor to release Bedukadze from criminal liability was a “mistake.”
“There are crimes – and it is defined by international laws – which cannot be forgiven and torture is number one among such crimes… If a person is implicated in torture and there are evidence confirmed by the court, no matter to what extent [this person] has cooperated [with investigation] there should in no way be a release from criminal liability; there might be mitigation of [punishment], but not release from criminal liability,” MP Khidasheli said.
Another MP from GD coalition, Zviad Kvatchantiradze, said in the same TV program that this decision by the chief prosecutor “was shocking for me.”
The chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement on June 19, that Bedukadze was released from criminal responsibility because he had helped to disclose “systemic crime” of inmates’ inhuman treatment. It said that by making videos public, Bedukadze exposed not only systemic crimes that were taking place in the penitentiary, but also implicated himself in committing those crimes and did it despite of threat to his own personal safety and did it without having any self-interest.
Article 218 of the code of criminal procedure allows chief prosecutor to file a motion “in special cases” in the court requesting release from criminal liability of an accused person if the latter helps to expose a grave crime. The motion has to be approved by the court. Before June, 2011 chief prosecutor had no right to apply this clause in respect of cases involving torture and inhuman treatment; but then the code was amended and this clause became applicable also to those who are accused of torture and inhuman treatment charges; it is still banned to apply this clause to those who have already been convicted for these crimes.
“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.