A trial into what is known as Mukhrovani mutiny listened to testimonies by eleven defendants, mainly those who at that time served in the Tbilisi-based rangers’ battalion.
Before questioning former servicemen from the rangers’ battalion, the court listened to Paata Khokhashvili, who at the time was a commander of mechanized company in the Mukhrovani-based battalion.
He told the court that on May 1 commander of the battalion Gorgiashvili met with about a dozen of his battalion’s commanding officers and told them that a disobedience was planned, involving “moving” of military hardware towards Tbilisi and “picketing” of the Interior Ministry’s building.
“We told him [Gorgiashvili], that it would have led to bloodshed and we disagreed [to participate],” Khokhashvili told the court.
He also said that that during the same meeting Gorgiashvili told the commanding officers that a financial award of 70,000-100,000 (currency was not specified) would have been given to company commanders if they agreed to participate. Khokhashvili said that he did not know who was paying and matter was not discussed at that meeting.
He said that at 6:30am on May 5 that Gorgiashvili summoned commanding officers and told them he was announcing disobedience as he was against of participating in the military parade. At that time holding of a military parade to mark Georgia’s Independence Day on May 26 was being considered by the authorities, but the plan was later dropped.
Khokhashvili said that the same announcement was made by Gorgiashvili before the battalion personnel. He also said that Gorgiashvili ordered him to deploy a BMP infantry fighting vehicle at the base checkpoint for “protecting the unit’s perimeter”; he, however, said that the BMP broke down and after that he received a separate order from Gorgiashvili to move two other BMPs and one to tow the damaged BMP. He said that as usually BMPs were in “combat readiness” mode, but “not in full combat mode;” “seven minutes are required to put them into full combat mode,” he added. He also said that there was no intention to move BMPs “beyond the [military] unit’s territory”.
After fulfilling the commander’s orders, Khokhashvili continued, he was told by other serviceman that it was reported on the television that the Mukhrovani base mutinied. After that, he said, he decided to leave the base territory.
Khokhashvili also told the court that he had pleaded guilty of disobedience, because he fulfilled the commander’s orders after the latter announced about the disobedience.
The court also questioned on September 16 defendants, who served in the rangers’ battalion. According to prosecutors several servicemen from that battalion, including its commander, Levan Amiridze, joined the mutiny in Mukhrovani battalion on May 5.
Zurab Mosulishvili, who pleads guilty of disobedience, told the court that he was asked by his commander Levan Amiridze to join him in disobedience. He said that he had agreed and explained it by personal loyalty towards his commander.
He told the court that on May 5 a group of servicemen from the rangers’ battalion intended to leave their base and to head to Mukhrovani unit to join their commander with six Land Rover pickup vehicles. But they failed, he said, as deputy commander of the battalion, who reported to the military police about the planned mutiny, ordered them not to leave the base territory. Mosulishvili said that he and others obeyed the order and returned arms back to depository. But later, he continued, he and several other servicemen, dressed in sportswear, went out from the base territory for a regular running workout. Outside the base, he said, they decided to anyway go to Mukhrovani and to join their commander, Amiridze; he said they took a taxi and headed towards the Mukhrovani base. He said some other servicemen from the battalion also followed them in separate taxis. He could not remember exactly what time it was when they arrived in Mukhrovani, but said it was probably past 11am. He also said that they had to enter into the base territory through a by-pass road, as the main entrance was “picketed.” At that time the law enforcement officers were already sealing-off the area.
In the Mukhrovani base, Mosulishvili continued, they arrived in barracks and about thirty or forty minutes later Levan Amiridze ordered them to leave the Mukhrovani base. He said, after that order from the commander they left the base and went to a nearby village of Ujarma, where they were arrested on the evening of the same day, May 5.
He said that he pleaded guilty, because he did not obey deputy commander’s order not to leave the rangers battalion’s base in Tbilisi. Personal loyalty to his commander was the only reason named by Mosulishvili as the reason behind his decision to go to Mukhrovani. He described Levan Amiridze as “brave” soldier, who fought “bravely” in the August war. He said that Amiridze led his battalion with courage and stayed behind the enemy’s line together with his soldiers for 40 days. He said he went to Mukhrovani in order “to stand by my commander.”
A testimony by another serviceman from the rangers’ battalion, Irakli Odikadze, was mainly in the line of the one given by Mosulishvili. Odikadze, who also pleads guilty of disobedience, served as a driver in the rangers’ battalion. He also named the personal loyalty to his commander, Levan Amiridze, as the reason for his decision to leave the base and to join Amiridze in Mukhrovani base together with Mosulishvili and others. He also said that he did not know about the planned disobedience in advance and learned about it only in the morning of May 5.
Eight other servicemen from the same rangers’ battalion were questioned on the September 16 trial.
All of them – Davit Jguniashvili; Giorgi Amiridze; Akaki Aptsiauri; Davit Okruashvili; Sandro Veshaguri; Gela Gogaladze; Davit Amiridze; Ucha Chokheli pled guilty of disobedience. And all of them told the court mainly the same story like Odikadze. Most of them said that they learned about their commander’s decision on disobedience only on May 5 and spontaneously decided to join him in the Mukhrovani base.
Only Davit Jguniashvili told the court that he learned about the planned disobedience on May 4, when Levan Amiridze told him about it. He said that Amiridze explained his decision by his protest against possible plan to disband the rangers’ battalion. Jguniashvili also told the court that Amiridze had no demands of political nature. “I think it was not a rebellion at all,” Jguniashvili said.
The court has not yet questioned Levan Amiridze and some other key figures into the case, including Koba Kobaladze, Koba Otanadze, Shota Gorgiashvili and Gia Gvaladze.
The next session of the court is scheduled for September 18.