Several out of 41 defendants into the Mukhrovani mutiny case are in talks with prosecutors to strike a plea bargain to settle their charges, court heard on September 9.
Trial into the Mukhrovani case, which started late in August at the Tbilisi City Court, on September 9 moved on to hearing of indictment by the prosecutor’s office, represented at the trial by two prosecutors.
When judge, Jemal Kopaliani, started asking defendants whether they pled guilty or innocent, a defense lawyer of one of the defendants requested the judge to suspend the process citing that some of the accused were still negotiating plea bargain.
Which and how many defendants are willing to strike a deal with prosecuting is likely to become clear on September 11 when the trial is scheduled to resume.
According to indictment statement read out by prosecutors at the hearing on September 9, a retired colonel Koba Otanadze, who in the past was commander of a military unit based in Mukhrovani, was a key mastermind behind the conspiracy to overthrow the government through military force.
Otanadze, who pleads innocent, according to the prosecutors, started to build a network of accomplices and for that purpose he contacted with Gia Gvaladze, who in the past worked for law enforcement and defense ministry structures, and instructed him to recruit reliable persons with experience of working in military and law enforcement agencies.
Gia Gvaladze is one of the key persons into the case, as his testimony given to the investigators on the early stage of investigation and afterwards is the only evidence based on which charges were brought against some other defendants, in particular against Koba Kobaladze, who was commander of the National Guard till 2004.
Gvaladze, who, according to prosecutors, was arrested on May 4 – a day before the alleged mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base, said in his initial testimony before investigators that along with Otanadze he met with other co-conspirators, including with Koba Kobaladze, in one of restaurants in Mtskheta, outside Tbilisi, in late March to discuss details of the plot. He failed to name an exact date and said it was between March 25 and March 27. At the latter stage of investigation, Gvaladze retracted his initial statement and said that the meeting to discuss details of the mutiny was held not in late March, but in late April.
The testimony by Gvaladze served as a ground for charging Koba Kobaladze with an attempt to overthrow the government through use of force. He is also charged with illegal possession of explosive device and firearm. Kobaladze denies charges and says that he attended no meeting in Mtskheta restaurant. His defense lawyers said they had firm evidence to confirm their client’s innocence and were ready to summon more than dozen of witnesses, who will confirm that Kobaladze was not in Mtskheta at the time indicated by Gvaladze.
Also on September 9 Kobaladze’s defense lawyers requested the judge to release Kobaladze from detention, as there was no threat that he would “influence on investigation” through possibly exerting pressure on some key figures into the case, including on Koba Otanadze (who is also in detention) – the major reason why court sentenced him to pretrial detention on May 7. The motion and the argument put forth by the defense lawyers were turned down by judge Jemal Kopaliani as “not sufficient” for Kobaladze’s release.
Defense lawyers of Koba Otanadze also requested the judge to release their client on GEL 10,000 bail; the motion was also rejected.
According to the prosecutors’ statement at the trial on September 9, conspirators, also including Levan Amiridze, at the time a commander of the Tbilisi-based rangers battalion, and Mamuka Gorgiashvili, at the time a commander of the Mukhrovani-based military unit, initially planned mutiny on May 2, but it was “postponed for unidentified reasons” till May 5. The plot envisaged seizure of key state agencies and strategic facilities, including Tbilisi airport, the Interior Ministry, General Prosecutor’s Office and the National Bank of Georgia.
Prosecutors told the court that early in the morning of May 5 Mamuka Gorgiashvili told his tank detachment at the Mukhrovani base that he was announcing disobedience to the authorities and ordered combat readiness.
According to the prosecutors’ statement, law enforcement agencies became aware of planned plot on March 26, when two accomplices, recruited by Gia Gvaladze – former servicemen of one of the special purpose units, Tamaz Khomasuridze and Giorgi Chkareuli, decided to report about the conspiracy to the law enforcement agencies. From that point, according to the prosecutors, undercover agents were planted among conspirators.
12 out of 41 defendants are charged with an attempt to overthrow the government through use of force; 23 of them face charges related with seizure of military command and disobedience to the authorities’ orders; five are accused of not reporting the crime and one is with primary charge of illegal possession and purchase of weapons.