Chief Prosecutor’s Office released on July 18 a videotaped confession statement by one of the arrested photojournalists, Giorgi Abdaladze, in which he says that he was recruited by the Russian intelligence when he was arrested and held in detention in capital of breakaway South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, in 2002.
In a 16-minute recording, Abdaladze says that in 2007, when started working for the Parliament’s press service, taking pictures of parliamentary speaker’s meetings with foreign dignitaries in Tbilisi, Zurab Kurtsikidze, another arrested photographer working for European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) hinted to him that he “too was working for one of the Russian agencies.”
“He reminded me about Tskhinvali events and told me that he too was in service and requested some photos of official meetings of [the parliamentary speaker – at the time Nino Burjanadze],” .
Abdaladze’s several pool photos of Nino Burjanadze, who at the time was the parliamentary speaker, can be viewed in EPA’s web archive.
Abdaladze says that in 2010, when he started working for the Foreign Ministry, taking photos of various meetings in the ministry, he continued cooperation with Kurtsikidze.
“The last time he asked me to provide him not only a photo of a visit by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, but also shortened notes of his meetings both in the Foreign Ministry and the presidential administration,” Abdaladze said.
When asked by one of his lawyers, Eka Beselia, how did he obtained “shortened notes” of that meeting, Abdaladze responded that under the pretext that his computer was not working and was not able to copy photos, he was able to gain access to another computer in the Foreign Ministry from where he managed to obtain the document. He said that he passed the document to Kurtsikidze.
Abdaladze’s lawyers say they doubt about sincerity of his confession. Eka Beselia, one of the lawyers of Abdaladze, said that she made a note to the interrogation protocol saying that she believed the confession statement was obtained through “psychological pressure” exerted on Abdaladze.
She also said that there were “many factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies” in Abdaladze’s confession statement making its credibility questionable, thus paving way for it to be disregarded if the case goes to trial stage.
Abdaladze was held in detention in Tskhinvali in 2000, not in 2002 as he says in his confession statement.
The trial stage may not come if Abdaladze agrees on plea agreement with the prosecution. There were some conflicting remarks from lawyers themselves on this matter with Beselia saying that such offer had been made to Abdaladze by the prosecution, while another lawyer of Abdaladze saying that the issue had not yet been raised.
Beselia said that the entire interrogation of Abdaladze lasted for three hours, but the prosecutor's office released only small portion, up to 16 minutes, of it. She called on the prosecutor's office to make the entire recording public.