|Sentence Passed In Georgian 'Mutiny' Trial|
|Monday, 11 January 2010|
Presiding judge Jemal Kopaliani passed sentence on January 11 on 20 men charged with planning, participating in, or failing to inform the authorities about an alleged mutiny on May 5 at the Mukhrovani military base near Tbilisi.
Three of purported ringleaders, all of whom denied that they planned an insurrection with the aim of overthrowing the Georgian government, received jail terms ranging from 19 to 29 years.
A fourth defendant, former National Guard commander Koba Kobaladze, was acquitted in what one former senior Georgian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called a PR gesture intended to hoodwink the West.
The prosecution's case was based largely on the testimony of other army officers who recounted conversations with the defendants both before and on May 5 during which the latter expressed discontent with the conduct of the top brass during the August 2008 war with Russia.
The insubordination charges are apparently based on their stated reluctance to participate in a planned military parade in Tbilisi on May 26 in light of the less-than-stellar performance by the army during the August war.
Retired Colonel Koba Otanadze was found guilty of masterminding the purported insurrection, insubordination (despite the fact that he was no longer a serving member of the armed forces), and illegal possession of arms.
He was sentenced to 29 years in prison. Otanadze refused to testify during his trial. During his closing statement on December 29, he again denied plotting a coup d'etat, adding that if he had done so, he would not have recruited Gia Gvaladze, the key witness for the prosecution.
Levan Amiridze, commander of a rangers' battalion stationed in Tbilisi, was likewise found guilty on the same three charges and jailed for 28 years. Amiridze, 32, pled guilty to the charge of insubordination. He too refused to testify during the trial, but in his closing statement on January 8, he explained his grievances with Georgian High Command, recalling how his battalion was the last to retreat from Russian-controlled territory during the August 2008 war, and did so without losing men or equipment.
Amiridze pointed to a major flaw in the prosecution's case against him, according to which his battalion planned to rendezvous in Mukhrovani, some 20-25 kilometers away, with a tank battalion based there, and then return to Tbilisi to occupy the Prosecutor-General's Office, which is located just 200-300 meters from the rangers' Tbilisi headquarters.
Shota Gorgiashvili, commander of a tank battalion based at Mukhrovani, pled guilty to insubordination, admitting that he was against his battalion participating in the planned military parade in Tbilisi on May 26 to mark the anniversary in 1918 of Georgia's independence.
But Gorgiashvili too denied any intention to topple the Georgian government. He pointed out in his final statement on December 29 that he could have tried to do so with the 70 tanks and other armored vehicles at his disposal, but in that case he would not have told his men that the unit would not leave the territory of the base. Gorgiashvili received a 19-year sentence.
Third Brigade commander Kakha Kobaidze pled not guilty to a charge of not reporting the planned insurrection to the authorities, and was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 10,000 laris ($5,883). Former 1st Brigade commander Davit Sulkhanishvili, who pled guilty to the same charge, received a provisional three-year sentence and a 20,000-lari fine.
Seven civilians initially charged with participating the planned insurrection were found guilty on the lesser charges of abetting insubordination and illegal possession of weapons, for which they received prison terms ranging from 10 to 15 years.
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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