Chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, said that there was no legal mean whatsoever to change his decision on releasing from criminal liability a former prison officer, Vladimer Bedukadze, even if he wanted to revise it.
“The law does give any possibility [to revise this decision],” Kbilashvili said at a news conference on July 9. “There is no such possibility even if I wanted to change something. So this decision will stand.”
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said in a written statement on July 8 that arguments based on which the chief prosecutor decided to release from criminal responsibility Bedukadze, one of those former prison officers, who were standing trial into the case of prison abuse scandal, were “insufficient and unconvincing.”
Total of seventeen former prison officials 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 and rape 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 of Bedukadze from criminal liability; Bedukadze, according to his own admission was filming some of those videos, which were showing inmates’ abuse in the Gldani prison No.8 in Tbilisi.
Kbilashvili said at the news conference on July 9, that he respects the position of the Prime Minister over this issue, which, he said, was originating from “highest moral standards.” Kbilashvili, however, also added that he remains on his position.
The chief prosecutor again reiterated arguments based on which he decided to release Bedukadze from the criminal liability through a special plea bargain deal. He said that he did it because Bedukadze helped to disclose “systemic crime” of inmates’ inhuman treatment. He also 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.”
Kbilashvili said that Bedukadze managed to sneak videos from prison and to hand them over to a person for making them public in September, 2011.
The person to whom the videos were handed over, according to Bedukadze, was Giorgi Lomia, a former inmate who met Bedukadze while serving his prison term. Lomia, who was cooperating with Tbilisi-based media outlet Obieqtivi and its head Irma Inashvili, confirmed that he received videos, filmed by Bedukadze and showing torture of inmates, in September 2011; he, however, said that he was not able to make them public till September, 2012 because more videos of prisoners’ abuse was needed in order to confirm that these crimes were of systemic nature with involvement of large number of prison officers, otherwise releasing of already available videos would have been perceived as staged by a single prison officer. Lomia claims that after another prison officer, who agreed to cooperate, managed to secretly film beating of inmates by prison guards, it was decided to make the videos public in September, 2012.
Commenting on the issue, President Saakashvili stressed on Kbilashvili’s remarks in which the latter said that Bedukadze shared videos with other person in September, 2011 – year before they were made public.
Saakashvili said that the videos, showing abuse of inmates, were “recorded upon the orders of not so poor person.”
“A lot of money was paid for it,” Saakashvili said. “So these tapes appeared in the hands of this not so poor person, who then used them for political purposes.”
“Today, the chief prosecutor confirmed that these tapes were handed over to certain groups in [September] 2011,” Saakashvili said, adding that it happened just before Bidzina Ivanishvili announced about his intention to, as Saakashvili put it, “take over Georgia” – he was referring to Ivanishvili’s October, 2011 statement about going into politics and intention to become the Prime Minister.
“We know very well how gaining power or ousting someone from power was happening with the use of compromising materials in Russia in 1990,” Saakashvili added.
He dismissed as a “fairy tale” claims by PM Ivanishvili that the chief prosecutor took the decision about releasing Bedukadze from criminal liability independently without prior consultation with the Prime Minister.
“The Justice Minister can upon the instruction of the Prime Minister offer Kbilashvili’s dismissal and I will accept his dismissal right now. If it’s serious and if it’s not some kind of a game let them propose [chief prosecutor’s dismissal] and I will approve it. But I hope that Mr. Kbilashvili and Bedukadze will then say how much was paid for [prison abuse videos],” Saakashvili said.