Former Adjaran Leader Abashidze Given 15-Year Prison Sentence

BATUMI, Georgia – The former Head of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Aslan Abashidze, was given a 15-year prison sentence by the Batumi City Court on Thursday.

Abashidze – who has lived in an exclusive Moscow suburb since fleeing the region in 2004 – was found guilty of abuse of power and the embezzlement of state funds.

He also faces a murder charge connected to the death of his former deputy Nodar Imnadze in 1991.

Judge David Mamiseishvili handed down the 15-year sentence and also fined the exiled Abashidze 100,000 GEL (USD 43,000) in compensation for Imnadze’s family as well as another 30,000 GEL (USD 12,800) that will be awarded to former political prisoner Tengiz Asanidze.

The Court also handed out sentences to Abashidze’s former associates and aides, including his brother-in-law and former security head, Soso Gogitidze, who was given 12 years in prison.

Abashidze’s former bodyguard David Khalvashi, who has been in prison almost for two years while awaiting a verdict, was given a four and a half year prison sentence.

Upon Georgia regaining its independence in 1991, Abashidze declared himself Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, where he built a power base that acted as a de facto independent state, heavily backed by Russia.

With Moscow’s assistance, Abashidze created a heavily armed private army as a counterweight to the nationalist factions that supported Georgia’s first democratically elected president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

In the ensuing years of economic chaos and separatist wars that plagued Georgia throughout the 1990s, Abashidze’s fiefdom on the Black Sea coast became one of the regional hubs for contra brand goods and human trafficking.

Abashidze, his associates and backers – including former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov – were reportedly some of the main financial benefactors of the illicit trade that went on in Adjara at the time.

After the November 2003 Rose Revolution had swept Georgia’s staunchly pro-Western former President Mikheil Saakashvili to power, Abashidze resigned as leader and fled to Moscow in May 2004.

By Thea Morrison
Edited by Nicholas Waller

11 August 2016 17:49