The prosecution struck plea bargain with seven defendants into the trial over what is known as Mukhrovani mutiny, the court was told on November 19.
All the seven defendants are former servicemen from the Tbilisi-base rangers’ battalion and all of them (Giorgi Amiridze; Davit Jguniashvili; Irakli Odikadze; Akaki Aptsiauri; Davit Okruashvili; Sandro Veshaguri and Zura Mosulishvili) testified before the court and pleaded guilty of disobedience.
As a result, the cases of these seven defendants were separated from the ongoing trial and a separate judge will now give a formal approval to the plea bargain they have agreed with the prosecution.
Initially there were 41 defendants into the case. In late September prosecution reached plea bargain with 13 defendants. Eight of them (mainly charged either for not reporting the crime or disobedience) were sentenced to two years in jail; four defendants, who pled guilty of disobedience, were sentenced to four-year imprisonment; while two defendants, charged with not reporting the crime, received four-year conditional sentence.
Witness Questioned Twice
On November 19 the court completed questioning of witnesses and starting from the next hearing on November 25 will move on to the studying and discussing the evidences, available in the 25 volume-case.
During the trial on November 19 the court questioned the prosecution’s witness, Giorgi Zirakishvili, for the second time already. The latter pleaded guilty of participation in mutiny with an aim to overthrow the government and of illegal carrying of firearms. Zirakishvili, whose case has never been the part of the ongoing Mukhrovani trial and was probed separately, struck a plea bargain with the prosecution, which gave him five-year conditional sentence.
In October, when Giorgi Zirakishvili was first questioned by the court, he said that Koba Otanadze, a retired army colonel, who is identified by the prosecution as one of the key coup plotters, revealed to him in mid-April that Mukhrovani-based military unit was intending to mutiny with an eventual goal to overthrow the government and requested for help. Zirakishvili said in October that his role was to provide a car and act as a driver for Otanadze and other co-plotters. He told the court that at 4am on May 5 he picked up Otanadze, Levan Amiridze, then commander of the Tbilisi-based rangers battalion and Gia Krialashvili, a retired army officer, identified by the prosecution among coup plotters, with his car and took them at a point not too far from Mukhrovani military unit from where the three men continued their way in a separate car. Zirakishvili also said that at about 7am or 8am on May 5 he went to Mukhrovani military unit upon Otanadze’s request to bring several mobile phones, which were in his car.
At a hearing on November 17 the prosecutor told the court that “new circumstances” had been revealed in connection to Zirakishvili’s involvement in the case, which, he said, emerged after the court approved Zirakishvili’s plea bargain on November 6. He said that because of these new circumstances it was necessary to again question Zirakishvili as a witness. Defense lawyers were strongly against, citing that the Georgian criminal procedural code does not envisage question of a witness who has already once testified before the court. But judge Jemal Kopaliani accepted the prosecution’s request for repeat questioning on the grounds that it was necessary to study the new circumstances.
During the repeat questioning on November 19, Zirakishvili told the court that on May 4, when Levan Amiridze and Koba Otanadze were in his car, the two men were speaking about the mutiny plans. He said that from conversation between the two men, he “guessed” that the plan involved moving of Mukhrovani-based military unit in direction of Tbilisi, following with setting of an ultimatum to the government with a demand to resign, “otherwise the authorities would have been overthrown by force”.
He also said during the repeat questioning that also late on May 4 with his car he took Otanadze and Amiridze to Khashuri, where the two men met with Kakha Kobaidze, then commander of the Kutaisi-based third brigade. Zirakishvili said that during the conversation, which was held in his car, Kobaidze was requested by Otanadze and Amiridze to declare “disobedience” and to assist “mutineers” if needed.
When asked by the prosecutor what Kobaidze’s response was, Zirakishvili answered: “In my opinion, Kobaidze agreed.” He, however, added that “Kobaidze himself did not say anything.” Kobaidze is among the defendants facing charges related with assisting in disobedience; he pleaded innocent and refused to testify before the court.
After this testimony by Zirakishvili, Koba Otanadze told the judge that he had never knew Kobaidze and met him for the first time in the courtroom.
In other development, also on November 19, a defense lawyer of Shota (Mamuka) Gorgiashvili, then the commander of the Mukhrovani-based tank battalion, told the court that his client was against of making his testimony, given to investigators at the stage of investigation, public. Gorgiashvili, who faces charges of mutiny with an aim to overthrow the government and of disobedience, refused to testify before the court. He pleaded guilty of disobedience, but refused coup plotting charges.