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Saakashvili Pardons Former Defense Minister Akhalaia

Former Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia
TBILISI -- Georgia's outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili has pardoned former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia.

Saakashvili's decision on November 3 came six days after the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Akhalaia -- who is also the former chief of the country's penitentiary system -- to nearly four years in prison for using excessive force in suppressing a 2006 prison riot. Seven inmates were killed during that intervention.

Akhalaia will remain in custody, as he still faces abuse-of-power charges in an unrelated case.

He is currently in pretrial detention pending trial in that case.

Akhalaia's lawyer, Giorgi Oniani, told journalists that his client had not asked for clemency as he had pleaded not guilty, but that his family made the request.

A number of close Saakashvili allies were arrested on various charges after the Georgian Dream political bloc of Saakashvili's rival, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, won parliamentary elections last year.