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Former Interior Minister, Two Defense Officials Detained In Georgia

Ex-Georgian Defense Minister Arrested
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Police in Georgia have detained the country's top military commander along with another defense official.

The move comes a day after the arrest of a former interior minister, who was also defense minister, of the government that was voted out of power last month.

The three are being investigated for abuse of power.

Giorgi Kalandadze, the chief of the Joint Staff of the Georgian armed forces, and Zurab Shamatava, a Defense Ministry brigade commander, were detained early on November 7 in Tbilisi but have yet to be charged.

The ex-minister, Bacho Akhalaia, remains in pretrial detention after being arrested on November 6 and questioned.

Georgia's chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, said the trio was accused of verbally abusing six soldiers, while Akhalaia was accused of also hitting one of them.

"The investigation has revealed that in October 2011 Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, together with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Georgi Kalandadze and commander of the 4th Brigade of the armed forces Zurab Shamatava, insulted six military servicemen in the office of the defense minister," Kbilashvili said.

"Bacho Akhalaia hit one of the servicemen on the head with the handle of a knife."

Akhalaia's lawyer responded, "I've never ever heard such an absurd reason for detention."

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said that the arrest was "not political."

Akhalaia is a close ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, a bitter rival to Ivanishvili.

He stepped down as interior minister in September after videos emerged showing Georgian prison inmates being beaten and sexually abused by guards.

The scandal erupted shortly before general elections in October which were won by Ivanishvili's coalition.

Akhalaia has called allegations about his role in the prison abuse "idiotic" and "absurd."

With reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and AFP

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