5 police officers arrested in Georgia

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2012 6:57 AM

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgian prosecutors on Thursday arrested five senior police officers on charges linked to a recent election that gave the opposition control of Parliament.

The prosecutor's office said Levan Kardava, the head of the Interior Ministry's constitutional security department, was arrested overnight along with the four other officers.

They face accusations in connection with last month's parliamentary election won by Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition. Charges include abuse of office, illegal detentions, obtaining personal data through hacking and damaging equipment belonging to Ivanishvili's Channel 9 television.

Ivanishvili, a multibillionaire philanthropist who became Georgia's prime minister, has repeatedly promised to investigate alleged abuses by officials appointed by President Mikhail Saakashvili, whose party was unseated in the election.

Under a constitutional reform due to take effect after Saakashvili leaves office in October 2013, most of the president's powers will be transferred to the prime minister. But Ivanishvili has moved to establish control without waiting for the formal transfer of authority.

Kardava's lawyer, Kakha Shonia, said that he was specifically accused of involvement in the alleged abduction of one of Ivanishvili's bodyguards in the run-up to the parliamentary vote. The bodyguard disappeared shortly before the election and reappeared in a video statement shortly after, declaring his decision to break ties with his boss and also released tapped phone conversations between opposition leaders, intended to cast them in negative light.

After Ivanishvili's victory, the bodyguard said he had been abducted and acted under pressure.

The new arrests follow the arrest earlier this month of Bacho Akhalaia, a former defense and interior minister, who was accused of abusing servicemen. His supporters have called the case politically motivated.