TBILISI: A Georgian court on Monday sentenced a former defence minister to nearly four years in jail in the first guilty verdict against a top ally of outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Ex-defence minister Bacho Akhalaia was found guilty of "abuse of office" by the Tbilisi city court in connection with accusations he beat up several inmates during a 2006 prison riot.
"The court sentenced Bacho Akhalaia to three years and nine months in jail," the court said in a statement.
Akhalaia -- who was in charge of the prison system at the time -- called the charges politically motivated and his lawyer pledged to appeal.
The prison term is the first imposed on a senior ally of Saakashvili, a string of whom are awaiting trial, and comes amid threats that Saakashvili could be prosecuted after his immunity ends when he leaves office shortly.
Western allies have expressed concern over perceived selective justice since billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's coalition triumphed at parliamentary polls last year.
Ivanishvili, who saw close ally Giorgi Margvelashvili win presidential elections Sunday to succeed Saakashvili, has warned that the outgoing president could face questioning over alleged abuses during his term in office.
Three other former senior interior ministry officials were also convicted in absentia.
Akhalaia is also facing a series of minor additional abuse of power charges.