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Officials Say Coup Attempt by Russian-Leaning Party Foiled
/ 7 Sep.'06 / 17:34
Civil Georgia

Criminal charges have been officially brought against 13 people suspected of plotting a coup, Chief Prosecutor of the capital Tbilisi Giorgi Gviniashvili said on September 7.

29 activists from the Russian-leaning, wanted Igor Giorgadze's Justice Party and its affiliated organizations were arrested on September 6. Of these, only 13 people are being charged and the others have been released, according to the General Prosecutor’s Office.

“Today [on September 6]  at 5 am a special operation was held throughout Georgia to arrest the leaders of Igor Giorgadze’s party and its satellite groups… Like the majority of Georgia’s population, we also had information and a suspicion that this group was planning to bring down the government so that Igor Giorgadze could return to Georgia,” Merabishvili said in a statement to the press on September 6.

Temur Zhorzholiani, leader of the Conservative-Monarchist Party; Maia Nikolaishvili, chairperson of the Anti-Soros Movement; and Maia Topuria, top official of the Justice Party, who is a relative of Giorgadze, were arrested in Tbilisi and remain in custody.

Arrests were carried out in Batumi, Zugdidi, Samtredia, Gori and in the Kakheti region, where local executives of the Justice Party were detained.

Initially it was reported that Irina Sarishvili, chair of the Tbilisi-based Giorgadze Charitable Foundation and newly set up Imedi political party, was also arrested, but the report was not confirmed.

“No coup was planned,” Sarishvili, once an influential politician, told reporters.

Igor Giorgadze has also condemned the arrests of his allies in Georgia as “repressions.”

“The Georgian authorities are using all the administrative resources available to somehow save their falling ratings, and one of the methods used is repression,” Giorgadze told the Russian NTV television station.

Giorgadze is wanted in Georgia for a failed terrorist act against ex-President Shevardnadze in 1995.

In his brief statement Interior Minister Merabishvili said that the police have “more than enough evidence to bring charges against these people,” but added that at the moment only some of the evidence can be made public. 
 
Shortly after this brief statement, Georgian television stations broadcasted footage disseminated by the Interior Ministry’s press service showing the testimony of two activists of the Justice Party, whose identities were concealed, citing procedural issues related to the investigation.

In the video, a man and a woman seated with their backs to the camera say that discussions of a planned coup took place at “secret meetings” of Giorgadze’s top associates in Tbilisi.

The man says that Maia Topuria, a top executive of the Justice Party in Tbilisi, said during one of these “secret meetings” that Igor Giorgadze planned to transfer “a large amount of money” in August to purchase armaments.

“Protest rallies were planned outside the Parliament, which would then be moved to outside the State Chancellery [where the President’s and the government’s administration is located]. According to the plan, two reliable persons would have fired several times towards the crowd… We were also instructed to recruit several hundred men to fight in an armed confrontation. USD 3 000 to 5 000 was envisaged [to give to] these people,” the unknown man tells investigators.

The woman tells investigators that “a large-scale protest rally was planned for September with an aim to overthrow the government.”

The Interior Ministry also disseminated a tape showing a large number of Kalashnikov assault riffles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, explosives and ammunition. Weapons have reportedly been recovered from one regional activist’s house.

Ruling National Movement party official have already hailed the arrests, saying that Giorgadze’s associates in Georgia were financed by the Russian special services to undermine stability in the country.

“We know that these organizations are financed by our enemies. We have information that they are financed by the Russian special services. These are anti-state organizations,” MP Mikheil Machavariani, the Vice-Speaker of Parliament, said.

Georgian media sources quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Chechelashvili as saying that Tbilisi will demand Russia to identify the sources of financing of the political groups operating under the Giorgadze’s Justice Party umbrella.

In a joint statement issued on May 25, leaders of four opposition parties – New Rights, Republicans, Conservative and Freedom – condemned Igor Giorgadze’s political activities, but also alleged that the Saakashvili administration was trying to create “a political scarecrow” out of Giorgadze.

Concerns had been voiced previously about the operations of the wanted ex-security chief’s Foundation, dubbed as “charitable.”

Ruling party officials said on September 6 that law enforcers have been probing into the activities of Giorgadze’s organizations in Georgia and took action only after obtaining enough evidence.

The Justice Party, Anti-Soros Movement and Giorgadze’s Charitable Foundation were set up in Georgia after the 2003 Rose Revolution.

Giorgadze made his first public appearance since 1995 in Moscow on May 24, 2006. Speaking at a news conference he warned that he would stage “a Revolution of Nettles” if President Saakashvili’s administration refuses to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections.

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