|Aide to Leader Of Georgia Tied to Spying|
|July 12, 2011|
By ELLEN BARRY
MOSCOW — The personal photographer of President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia was shown Saturday on Georgian television confessing to selling information to a man he suspected of being an agent for Russia.
The photographer, Irakli Gedenidze, said he provided information to a friend and colleague, Zurab Kurtsikidze, because Mr. Kurtsikidze, who works for the European Pressphoto Agency, had threatened to blackmail him. The two men and another photographer, Giorgi Abdaladze, were charged with espionage.
The confession marks a new phase in a prosecution that has shaken media circles in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, where all three men are well known. In the confession, Mr. Gedenidze said he cooperated with Mr. Kurtsikidze out of fear.
“By that time I realized that it was linked to special services, and my feeling strengthened, as I knew he was sending these photos to Moscow to a photo agency,” Mr. Gedenidze said. “He reminded me of my signatures, which I was making on the payments for providing photos, and told me he would have used those signatures against me — that is, he used the language of blackmail. I got afraid and continued our cooperation.”
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said that Mr. Kurtsikidze acquired the material for two agents of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and forwarded them to Moscow. It said that the police found photographs of classified documents detailing the floor plan of Mr. Saakashvili’s office, planned routes and itinerary during searches of Mr. Gedenidze’s and Mr. Abdaladze’s belongings, and that the same files were on Mr. Kurtsikidze’s computer.
The government has classified the case as secret. so the men’s lawyers could not discuss details. But lawyers for Mr. Kurtsikidze and Mr. Abdaladze said their clients were not guilty. And Mr. Abdaladze himself released a handwritten statement on Saturday that characterized the case as part of a government campaign against free media.
Mzia Kupunia contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia.
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