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Former Georgian defense minister sent to prison

Lynn Berry, Associated Press

Georgia's Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, right, greets supporters as he meets presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili at the Georgian Dream coalition's headquarters in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Giorgi Margvelashvili, a former university rector with limited political experience, should get about 67 percent of the vote, the exit polls predicted. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- A Georgian court on Monday convicted a former defense minister and ordered him sent to prison, in another blow for outgoing President Mikhail Saakashvili the day after a presidential election that was won by his rival.

Former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia is among dozens of people from Saakashvili's team who have faced charges since his party lost a parliamentary election a year ago. Saakashvili also is expected to be questioned after he leaves office next month.

Sunday's election was won by former university rector Giorgi Margvelashvili with about 62 percent of the vote. He was the choice of billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has not consolidated his control over this U.S.-allied former Soviet republic.

Ivanishvili has maintained the pro-Western course set by Saakashvili during his nearly 10 years in office. The prosecutions, however, have raised concerns in the United States and Europe that his government is using the justice system to settle political scores. Ivanishvili denies this.

Akhalaia was convicted of using excessive force to suppress a prison uprising in 2006 in which seven inmates were killed and 22 injured. He was head of the prison system at the time. He also served as an interior minister in charge of police under Saakashvili.

The presidential candidate from Saakashvili's party, former parliament speaker David Bakradze, finished second with about 22 percent of the vote. This was a higher result than expected and will help the party maintain political influence as the main opposition party.