Zurab Kurtsikidze, one of the arrested photojournalists charged with espionage, has offered to strike plea bargain deal with the prosecution, his lawyer said after meeting with Kurtsikidze on July 21.
“No plea bargain deal has yet been agreed; Kurtsikidze simply made a proposal to make plea agreement,” Nino Andriashvili, one of Zurab Kurtsikidze's lawyers, told Civil.ge, adding that no conditions for such potential plea agreement had yet been discussed.
“This offer has been put forth by Kurtsikidze during his repeat interrogation, which became needed as investigators had some additional questions. The prosecution said that it would consider Kurtsikidze proposal [on plea agreement] and give its response later,” Andriashvili said.
Probability that the case of photojournalists will end with plea bargain deal before scheduled trial in September, increased after all three photographers, remaining under the police custody, agreed to give confession statements.
If the plea agreement – a widespread practice in Georgia’s criminal justice system often criticized by human rights groups – comes into play in respect of all arrested photographers, it means that the case will not be heard in substance through main court hearing.
Also on July 21 lawyers of Giorgi Abdaladze, another photojournalist charged with espionage, as well met their client. One of his lawyers, Eka Beselia, said that his client was again questioned by investigators to sort out those factual inaccuracies, which Abdaladze made in his videotaped confession statement. One such inaccuracy, Beselia said, was related to the date of his arrest by the South Ossetian militias. Initially Abdaladze said he was recruited by the Russian intelligence when he was in detention in Tskhinvali in 2002; in fact he was held in detention in Tskhinvali in 2000 not in 2002.
Beselia said that neither of Abdaladze’s lawyers had signed the interrogation protocol on the grounds that they believed their client was under “psychological pressure.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer Shalva Shavgulidze, who in the past has handled several high-profile cases in Georgia, said on July 21, that he had been hired by the family and employer of Zurab Kurtsikidze. Zurab Kurtsikidze worked for the Frankfurt-based European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). Shavgulidze told journalists on July 21, that he wanted to meet with his client, but was not able, blaming prison administration for that. Kurtsikidze’s lawyer Nino Andriashvili said that her client refused to be represented by Shavgulidze; no reasons for such decision have been specified.