Former security officials sentenced to prison for torture

Former employees of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security department - were sentenced., 14 Mar 2014 - 14:52, Tbilisi,Georgia

Four former high ranking officials will spend the next three years, nine months in prison for beating three policemen almost eight years ago.

In court today, Data Akhalaia, Soso Topuridze, Geronti (Gia) Alania and Oleg Melnikov – all former employees of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security (DCS) department - were sentenced.

They were found guilty of torture and exceeding official powers, under Article 333 of the Criminal Code. In court, Akhalaia was declared not guilty for illegal imprisonment, under Article 143.

At the time of the incident, Akhalaia was the former head of the DCS, Soso Topuridze was his deputy and Geronti (Gia) Alania and Oleg Melnikov were DCS officers.

Immediately after the men were handed their sentence, noise erupted in the court and there was a verbal confrontation between the relatives of the victims and the defendants.

While four men were charged, only Melnikov remained imprisoned for the crime. Akhalaia, Alania and Topuridze escaped and their whereabouts are currently unknown.

Akhalaia is the brother of former Interior and Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, who was earlier sent to prison for several criminal charges ranging from torture and illegal confinement to exceeding official powers.

Data Akhalaia, who most recently served as deputy Defense Minister, left Georgia after the Parliamentary elections in 2012. Topuridze most recently served as the Chief of Administration of the joint staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, also left the country after the elections.

In a 2005 statement by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, a senior police officer from one of the Tbilisi’s police departments and his colleague were summoned by Akhalaia to the DCS Tbilisi headquarters where they were "brutally beaten up” by Akhalaia, his deputy Topuridze and DCS officers. Another person was also beaten up by DCS employees upon the instruction of Akhalaia.

The Office said three police officers were then illegally locked up for several hours.

The Office claimed Akhalaia and Topuridze beat up the three police officers because they thought the men were involved in "insulting” Tako Salakaia – the wife of the then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, in a Tbilisi restaurant a few days earlier.