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Georgian Defense Minister Appointment Sparks Protest

Bacho Akhalaya

Bacho Akhalaya

TBILISI -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has appointed a controversial "iron fist" politician as defense minister, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Despite being the youngest cabinet member, Bacho Akhalaya, 29, is considered to be one of the toughest and influential politicians in Georgia.

President Saakashvili nominated Akhalaya to the post of defense minister at the gathering of the National Security Council on August 27.

Previously, Akhalaya had served as the first deputy defense minister.

Saakashvili explained his decision by the "need of a strong hand in the army."

Georgian opposition leaders and activists expressed their protest regarding Akhalaya's appointment.

According to them, Akhalaya has been involved in activities of so-called "death squads" used by Saakashvili, as they say, to deal with his political rivals.