Georgian Prosecutor’s Office Accuses 2 Ex-Officials of Torture

TBILISI – Georgia’s Persecutor’s Office on Thursday charged two former officials with torture and the illegal property seizure of a businessman killed in spring 2015.

The prosecutor said in a prepared statement that Alexander Mukhadze, a former director of the notorious Gldani 8 Prison and Gori Military Hospital, and former Deputy Culture Minister Giorgi Udesiani, were charged with the torture of Tbilisi restaurateur Besarion Khardziani.

According to the investigation, Udesiani – who served under the previous administration of former President Mikheil Saakashvili – and Khardziani became partners of Turtle Lake Kala Ltd and Turtle Lake Palace Ltd in 2008. The companies were responsible for managing restaurants and some other facilities at suburban Tbilisi’s popular Turtle Lake.

The prosecutor claims that Udesiani forced his business partner to give up personal and family members’ shares and transfer them to Udesiani’s own control in 2011.

Udesiani then had Mukhadze force Khardziani to give up more than GEL 5 million (USD 2.270 million) worth of shares. Khardziani was then subsequently arrested for drug possession and sent to Gldani prison, then-headed by Mukhadze.

The prosecutor claims that Mukhadze had two other inmates moved into Khardziani’s cell. The two were allegedly charged with torturing Khardziani to force him into giving up his shares of Turtle Lake Kala Ltd and Turtle Lake Palace Ltd.

According to the investigation, the two unidentified inmates tortured Khardziani for two weeks.

“Under such extreme physical and psychological pressure, Khardziani agreed to re-register his restaurant. However, the aim of Khardziani’s torture was for him to relinquish his business shares, not the restaurant. The administrative trustees refused to accept the restaurant and requested the re-registration of his business shares in favor of Udesiani. The administration trustee also threatened Khardziani with rape if he refused to comply,” the prosecutor’s statement said.

The investigation said that Udesiani also applied the same torture methods to Khardziani’s brother, Giorgi.

Udesiani allegedly beat Giorgi Khardziani before and threatening him with having to attend his brother’s rape if he refused to cooperate.

Both Udesiani and Mukhadze could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

The two fled Georgia in 2012 after Saakashvili’s ruling party lost that year’s elections to the Georgian Dream coalition headed by eccentric tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Khardziani began legal proceedings against Udesiani after being released from prison in 2013. He was murdered in his Tbilisi apartment shortly after winning his court case on March 28, 2015.

In January, the prosecutor’s office brought murder charges against Ukrainian citizen Alexander Damyetov, 30, and Russian citizen Oleg Doyev, 42, though neither of the two suspects has been directly tied to Udesiani.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

06 May 2016 17:37