Former Government officials face new torture charges

A briefing was held at the prosecutor's office today, 08 Jan 2014 - 15:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

Three former Government Interior Ministry senior officials face new torture charges.

Former Interior Ministry senior official Megis Kardava and ex-deputy Chief of Department of Corrections Gaga Mkurnalidze are accused of torturing prisoners in order to gain a confession on a terrorist act. In addition, former Head of N8 penitential institution Aleksandre Mukhadze has been charged for alleged abuse of authority.

According to the prosecutors office statement, Kardava and Mukhadze are in hiding.

"The investigation revealed that on April 2, 2011, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional Main Division officers detained Eldar Kobalia for purchase and possession of drugs. He was taken to the Zugdidi police station where he was tortured and abused, said prosecutor Koka Katsitadze at a briefing today.

At the police station, it is alleged Kardava and other unidentified people tried to force Kobalia to plead guilty to a charge of preparing a terrorist act. Later that day Kobalia was sent to the Zugdidi temporary detention center, where his health condition was described as "very critical,, said Katsitadze.

The same evening, Interior Minister Ivane Merabishvili, Constitutional Security Department (CSD) Director David Akhalaia, CSD Deputy Director Ioseb Topuridze and other high officials travelled from Tbilisi to Zugdidi.

Kobalia was transferred to Tbilisi on April 8. It is alleged three days later, he and two others - Koba Matkava and Merab Kolbaia - were tortured by Kardava and Mkurnalidze again.

Katsitadze said the pair mercilessly beat the prisoners and extensively used an electric shock to torture them. Kobalia could not resist the physical abuse and lost consciousness. A short time later the inmates were returned to the cells of N8 penitential institution however later that day Kobalia passed away due to his injuries. It is said medical assistance was not provided to him.

Kardava and Mkurnalidze have already been charged with torture. If the suspects are found guilty of the latest charges, they face a sentence of nine to 15 years imprisonment.

The Prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into 170 alleged cases of torturing prisoners. The Office is investigating 52 people, including the head of the Department of Corrections as well as nine directors and seven deputy directors and other high officials of the prisons.

To date 29 people have already been found guilty of this crime.