Most of the court proceedings into the case against photographers charged with espionage in favor of Russia will be open for public, the Georgian prosecutor’s office said on July 13.
“The prosecution will file a motion requesting court to hear at a closed session only that small part of evidence, which contains state secrets,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Zurab Kurtsikidze, photographer for the Frankfurt-based European Pressphoto Agency (EPA); Irakli Gedenidze, President Saakashvili personal photographer and Giorgi Abdaladze, a freelancer who also was a contract photographer with the Georgian Foreign Ministry and also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press were arrested on July 7 and charged with espionage. Gedenidze’s wife, Natia Gedenidze, was also arrested into the case and released on bail. Preliminarily court hearing is scheduled for September 1.
Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, said on July 13, that the investigation had “enough evidence” to suspect that Kurtsikidze had been in contact with the Russian military intelligence operatives since 2004, particularly with Anatoly Sinitsin and Sergey Okrokov. These two names first emerged in Georgia in 2006 when Georgia arrested four Russian citizens on espionage charges, triggering major spy scandal between Georgia and Russia. At the time the Georgian authorities said that the spy network was coordinated from outside Georgia by Russian military intelligence officer Anatoly Sinitsin.
Merabishvili also said that there were "evidence to suspect" that Kurtsikidze made dozens of phone contacts with the Russian military intelligence operatives since 2004.
At a meeting with a small group of journalists, mainly those working for the Western news agencies, Merabishvili insisted that the investigation’s evidence were more than enough to justify arrest of the photographers and to charge them with espionage.
He also said that the public scrutiny of those evidence would be possible during the court proceedings “most part of which will be open for the public”, except of those parts at which documents with state secrets would be heard.
Merabishvili said that charges against Kurtsikidze, who worked for the Frankfurt-based European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) did not meant that investigators were suspecting that his agency or EPA’s any other employ was also involved into the case; he said that EPA had nothing to do with the case.
He dismissed allegations about “hysteria” over Russian spies in Georgia, saying that less than two weeks ago Georgia eased visa rules for the Russian citizens willing to enter into Georgia via Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing point.