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Mukhrovani Trial: Court Starts Questioning Defendants
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 12 Sep.'09 / 04:14

Most of the 41 defendants into what is known as Mukhrovani mutiny case entered plea of guilty at a trial on September 11 during which court also heard testimonies by some of the defendants.

Koba Kobaladze, a former commander of National Guard, who is accused of attempted overthrow the government through use of force and of illegal possession of explosive device and firearm, pled innocent.

Koba Otanadze, who according to prosecutors was key mastermind behind the mutiny, also denied his charges related with an attempt to overthrow of government; disobedience and unauthorized activities on a military base and illegal possession and carrying of firearm.

Three other defendants also entered not guilty plea, including Besik Potskhverashvili and Beka Grigalashvili – both are accused of an attempt to overthrow the government – and Zaza Sandodze, who faces arms charges, as well as not reporting a crime and resisting police.

Two defendants have entered partial guilty plea, including Gia Gvaladze, who is accused of an attempt to overthrow the government; Levan Amiridze, who at the time of the alleged mutiny was a commander of the Tbilisi-based rangers battalion, pled guilty of disobedience, but denied charges related with an attempt to overthrow the government.

Two other defendants – both military personnel accused of disobedience - refused to enter any pleas at all at this stage of trial.

Of those 32 defendants, who pled guilty, 21 are military personnel charged with disobedience. Six others, who pled guilty, are accused of not reporting the crime.

Among those six defendants who pled guilty of an attempt to overthrow the government with use of force is Col. Gorgiashvili, who was a commander of the military unit based in Mukhrovani.

Prosecutors told the court on September 11 that they were still in talks with some of the defendants on plea bargain.

During the September 11 hearing, the court also questioned five defendants. Defense lawyers of some defendants requested the judge to start with questioning of witnesses (for now over 100 witnesses are already registered for summoning in the court) and then move on listening to the defendants, but the motion was turned down.

One of them, Zaza Mushkudiani (accused of not reporting the crime; he entered guilty plea), an officer who at the time served in the Tbilisi-based rangers battalion, told the court that in April, 2009, commander of the battalion, Levan Amiridze, told him that “declaring of disobedience to the authorities” was planned. Mushkudiani also said that according to Amiridze’s words the goal of the disobedience should have been “setting an ultimatum” to President Saakashvili and demanding his resignation and another goal should have been thwarting of NATO multinational exercises in Georgia, which were planned to start in early May. Mushkudiani said that he rejected to participate and after that Amiridze told him that he also would not participate. Mushkudiani also told the court that Gia Gvaladze, whom he knew for years, also approached him in April with the same offer, but he again rejected. Mushkudiani said that he did not report to relevant authorities about it as he thought the plan was dropped since his commander Amiridze told him that he also would not participate.

Ilia Gambarashvili (pled guilty of not reporting the crime), who was a commander of a tank company within the Mukhrovani-based battalion, told the court that on May 1, 2009 commander of the battalion, Col. Gorgiashvili, summoned him and some other commanding officers to say that he planned “disobedience to the authorities” that would have been materialized into “picketing” of some strategic facilities, including the Tbilisi airport and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Gambarashvili told the court that he had refused to participate.

Gambarashvili also said that at 6:30am on May 5, Col. Gorgiashvili, again summoned commanding officers, including him, and told them that he was declaring disobedience “without moving military hardware from their locations;” according to him, Col. Gorgiashvili said that he disagreed with the authorities’ order issued to his battalion to participate in a planned military parade. According to Gambarashvili, Col. Gorgiashvili told them that he deemed inappropriate to take part in such an event after the August war. He also told the court that he had seen retired Col. Koba Otanadze, who, according to prosecutors, was key mastermind behind the mutiny, inside the territory of the Mukhrovani base at about 7am on May 5.

A similar testimony was given by a commander of another company of the same battalion, Vladimer Gulikashvili (pled guilty of not reporting the crime). He also said that when Col. Gorgiashvili told commanding officers on May 1 about the planned disobedience, the commander also added that a reward of 100,000 (currency was not specified) was envisaged for company commanders. Gulikashvili said it was not clear who would have paid this sum. He said he refused to participate.

Gulikashvili also said that he had seen two armored vehicle moving on the base territory on May 5 after Col. Gorgiashvili declared disobedience; he said he had not seen Koba Otanadze on the base territory.

Kakha Jolbordi (pled guilty of disobedience), a company commander in charge of base guard, told the court that he was absent at the May 5 meeting of commanding officers with Col. Gorgiashvili. He, however, said that after that meeting he received order “Signal Shield” – meaning protection of the base perimeter; he said that after this order he deployed 32 of his armed soldiers for “protection of a perimeter”, but after he had learnt about “mutiny” from media source, withdrew his soldiers and surrendered the arms. He also said that although initially he was not pleading guilty, later he acknowledged that he was fulfilling his commander’s order after Col. Gorgiashvili declared disobedience.

Davit Gventsadze (pled guilty of not reporting the crime), who in the past served for law enforcement agencies, told the court that he was approached by Gia Gvaladze in April and offered USD 50,000 for planting explosive devices in unspecified locations. Gventsadze said that although initially he agreed, on May 2 he refused to participate as did not deem it “serious”.

The Tbilisi City Court will continue questioning of other defendants at the next hearing on September 14.

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