Judge of the Tbilisi City Court, presiding over the trial into ex-defense and interior minister Bacho Akhalaia’s case, blamed the prosecution for dragging out the process and set October 17 as the final deadline for a prosecutor to present a closing argument.
This ongoing trial is about charges into alleged abuse of power, involving allegations that he beat up several inmates when he served as prison system chief in March, 2006, which led to a riot in the Tbilisi prison No.5 that claimed the life of seven inmates.
Akhalaia has already gone through two other separate trials.
In one of them, on August 1 he was found not guilty of charges involving exceeding official powers, illegal confinement and torture into three separate cases.
Second trial was ongoing in connection to allegations involving mistreatment of seven special task force servicemen in August, 2012 when Akhalaia served as interior minister. Like in other charges, here too Akhalaia denies allegations saying that prosecutors tried to portray extremely challenging training course as inhuman treatment of servicemen. On August 13 this trial was adjourned pending verdict, which judge has yet to deliver.
Third trial, involving prison riot case, has long approached its final stage when the prosecution and then the defense have to deliver their closing arguments; but this phase of trial has been postponed for number of times already. On September 17 when prosecutor, Rezo Nadoi, was expected to deliver closing arguments, he did not show up at the trial for which he was fined with GEL 300 by the judge. The prosecutor’s office later cited health problems as a reason behind Nadoi’s failure to appear at the trial and the case was referred to other prosecutor, Ia Darjania, who requested the judge additional time to familiarize herself with the case papers. On September 30 she appeared in court, but again asked the judge to give her more time; she was given seven more days.
But on October 7, when prosecutor Darjania was expected to deliver her closing arguments, she motioned for self-recusal; she cited that she has “common friends” with the wife of Akhalaia and felt “psychological pressure” with some of them asking her to “take right decisions.”
Bacho Akhalaia told the judge that the reason cited by the prosecutor behind her request for recusal was just a pretext to further drag-out the process; Akhalaia suggested that as it seems the prosecution does not expect a guilty verdict and wants to maximally delay the process in order not to have acquittal verdict, which would be a blow for the prosecution and the government, before the presidential election on October 27.
A new prosecutor, Levan Adeishvili, replacing Darjania who recused herself, requested the judge to give him fifteen days to familiarize himself with the case papers.
Presiding judge, Lasha Chkhikvadze, gave the new prosecutor ten days and warned that he would not postpone hearing further beyond October 17.
“I believe unequivocally that such an irresponsible action on the part of the prosecution serves dragging out of the trial,” the judge said and told the new prosecutor: “I hope your health condition and intellectual resources will allow you to familiarize yourself with the case papers within the set timeframe.”