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Mukhrovani Trial: Judge Considers Verdict
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Jan.'10 / 13:58

The judge in the trial known as Mukhrovani mutiny retired on January 8 to consider the verdict, which will be delivered on January 11.

Before making this announcement the judge heard closing statement of several defendants on January 8, including the one by Levan Amiridze, who was a commander of the Tbilisi-based rangers’ battalion. Most of the defendants delivered their closing statements at a previous hearing on December 29.

Amiridze, who during the court proceeding refused to testify, is charged with mutiny to overthrow the government and with disobedience to the authorities. Although admitting disobedience, he refused charges related with mutiny to overthrow the government. The prosecution demanded 29-year prison term for Amiridze.

“Yes I had a discontent, but not towards the authorities; I was discontent about the military command,” Amiridze, a 32-year-old former military commander, told the court in his closing statement on January 8. “And I was expressing my discontent in my conversations with the command time after time.”

The rangers’ battalion, which was the Defense Ministry’s elite special operations unit under the direct subordination to chief of staff of the armed forces, was the last Georgian military unit to withdraw from the war theater in the 2008 August war with Russia.

“My battalion was abandoned by everyone [referring to the command]. We were not even informed that the [Georgian] army was retreating. We remained 30 kilometers deeper behind the enemy line till August 27 [2008 – more than two weeks after the combat operations were over]. We have fulfilled all the tasks without having a single lose in personnel or equipment… It was our battalion, which captured two Russian pilots of downed TU-22 strategic bomber,” Amiridze said.

A commander of the land forces, Shmagi Telia, who testified before the court as the prosecution witness on November 3, said Amiridze and Shota (Mamuka) Gorgiashvili, then the commander of the tank-battalion in Mukhrovani, complained about “internal [army] problems” when he met with them in Mukhrovani early on May 5 after the disobedience was declared.

According to the prosecution, the conspirators’ plan was to capture “strategic facilities” in Tbilisi with use of military hardware and personnel of Mukhrovani-based tank battalion and the rangers’ battalion. According to this version, the servicemen from the rangers’ battalion had to join the tank battalion in Mukhrovani, outside Tbilisi, early on May 5, 2009 and then jointly march towards the capital city to capture the airport and some key governmental buildings, including of the Interior Ministry, Prosecutor’s Office and the Parliament.

“The Prosecutor’s Office is some 200 or 300 meters away from the location where the rangers’ battalion was based in Tbilisi,” Amiridze told the court on January 8. “Even if such plan existed, it would have been completely wrong from the tactical point of view to go at first to Mukhrovani and then back to Tbilisi to capture strategic facilities.”
 
He also said that one of the companies from his battalion was on a daily duty to guard the Defense Ministry and the chief of staff’s headquarters. “If I had an intention to block these buildings, I could have done that,” Amiridze said.

“I was a commander of one of the best military units in the Georgian army and believe me I would have done it if I had an intention of mutiny… But neither I nor Gorgiashvili had such intention,” he added.

Another former high-ranking military commander, Kakha Kobaidze, who also refused to testify before the court, said in his brief closing statement on January 8, that he had “no illusion that anyone in this courtroom would be freed.”

“But you can at least deliver a verdict, which can be more or less closer to the truth in order not to be sorry about your decision in the future,” Kobaidze told judge Jemal Kopaliani.

Kobaidze, who was a commander of the Kutaisi-based third brigade of the armed forces, is charged with not reporting the crime. The prosecution says that he was informed about the planned mutiny and even asked by Amiridze to join, but withheld the information. Kobaidze refused to enter plea of guilt. The prosecutor demanded a 4-year prison term and GEL 10,000 fine for Kobaidze.

Also on January 8, as it was expected, the judge approved a plea bargain deal between the prosecution and one of the defendants -  Zaza Sandodze, a civilian who is a relative of Koba Otanadze, one of the alleged key coup plotters. Sandodze who pleaded guilty of charges related with resisting the police and with illegal arms possession, will spent two years in prison, according to his plea bargain deal.

A total of 20 defendants are now awaiting the verdict.

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