A shadowy Russian-language website, which became known in Georgia last year for posting audio recordings of phone conversations in connection to Imedi TV's fake war report, re-captured Georgian media's attention again by running several audio recordings of, as it claims, phone conversations between top level Georgian officials discussing the case against photojournalists, who were found guilty of spying for Russia and released under plea bargain deal.
The website, Coroka.net (Russian pronounce - soroka, meaning magpie), posted on August 4 six audio recordings, among them claimed to be between Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and some of his subordinates, as well as with President Saakashvili and Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili in which interlocutors discuss some of the details of case against the photojournalists who at the time were still under the police custody.
The website posted these recordings under the headline "How the Spy Photographers' Case was Falsified"; but hardly such a clear-cut conclusion can be made from the recordings; some online commentators in internet discussion forums and social networking sites have even suggested that the recordings might have be deliberately leaked by the Georgian authorities because these recordings seem to be more corroborating official version rather than supporting skeptics' doubts about the photographers' case.
In one of the recordings, a man, purportedly senior Interior Ministry official Shota Utiashvili tells his interlocutor said to be Interior Minister Merabishvili, that those phone recordings, which the ministry initially released in an attempt to support its case against the arrested photojournalists was in fact "nothing" and could not serve as evidence, adding that "we should not have released these [recordings] at all".
Utiashvili says that the recordings released by the Russian-language website are not authentic; he told Civil.ge on Sunday that he had "never had such conversations."
In a separate recording, the man said to be Merabishvili tells interlocutor, purportedly President Saakashvili, that "bargaining is underway" with one of the arrested photographers, saying that the deal would be made if "he tells everything". The man, purportedly Saakashvili answers that "it's good"; interlocutor responds that the bad side of the story is that "all" turn out to be agents. The voice purportedly to be of Saakashvili says that they all were part of the generation "which is stuck in the past". "I thought they were of new generation; these [uses insulting term] are younger then me," the man, said to be Merabishvili, says.
In the recordings, like in those released by the same website last year in connection to Imedi TV's fake war report, each speaker is recorded on a separate channel. In case of Imedi TV's fake report-related recordings, experts concluded that this form of recording and other technical factors indicated that the recordings were intercepts made at a main exchange.