Hearing in appeals court into the case of series of explosions in Georgia in 2010 was postponed for a second consecutive time on April 20 as convicts were not brought to the courtroom.
The hearing was postponed on April 18 too for the same reason.
Mikheil Bebiashvili, the judge presiding over the case, said on April 20, that the court asked on April 18 the penitentiary to explain reasons of a failure to bring convicts to the court, but received no response.
“We’ll send a written appeal to [the penitentiary] about today’s fact too; no other lever is available for the court,” the judge said and adjourned the hearing to April 24.
Defense lawyers into the case say they suspect that the court sittings are delayed deliberately by a prosecution following a surprise twist into the case as one of the key figures reportedly announced about his intention to retract his confession, which, his lawyer claims, was obtained by investigators under duress.
The court hears appeals from several convicts into the case of series of explosions, among them the one, which occurred outside the perimeter of the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi on September 22 and another one - outside the Labor Party office in Tbilisi on November 28, which killed a woman.
In December, 2010 the Georgian police arrested six persons suspected of being behind those explosions and the Interior Ministry announced that an Abkhaz-based Russian military intelligence officer, Yevgeny Borisov, was a mastermind of these terrorist acts, including of an attempt to explode a railway bridge in western Georgia.
In February, 2011 police arrested several others into the same case, including Merab Kolbaia, who was described as “one of the key figures responsible for terrorist acts organized by Russian intelligence.”
At the time Kolbaia, as well as another suspect into the case Gogita Arkania, confessed of carrying out series of explosions ordered by Borisov.
In June, 2011 the Tbilisi City Court found fifteen persons guilty of terrorism and sentenced most of them, some in absentia, to lengthy prison terms. Kolbaia and Arkania were sentenced to 30 years in prison. The both men, as well as several others, took their case to the Court of Appeals.
According to Kolbaia’s defense lawyer, Mate Kharchamadze, during a hearing on April 12 his client expressed willingness to testify before the court, to retract his initial guilty plea and to claim his innocence. Hearing was adjourned since then. When the hearing resumes, the lawyer plans to file a motion before the judge requesting court to question his client. According to the lawyer, Kolbaia claims he was forced to confess into the crimes he had never committed after “being tortured” following his arrest.
Hearings into the case in the court of first instance, the Tbilisi City Court, were held behind the closed door. However, sittings in the Court of Appeals were opened for the public in a move to, as defense lawyers speculate, give way to filming of the hearings. (Hearings of Court of Appeals are held in one of the large courtrooms in the building housing the Tbilisi City Court).
“Making hearings public was a surprise for us,” Gela Nikoleishvili, a defense lawyer of one of the convicts Davit Kekutia, said on April 20, adding that lawyers had nothing against of that. “We were told that filming was made upon the court’s decision. They brought cameras, brought people to fill the seats [in the courtroom]; it seemed like they were staging a show; they apparently wanted [to film] how they ‘resolved’ yet another high-profile case.”
According to defense lawyers, another convict into the case, Gogita Arkania, also had an intention to partially change his initial testimony and to tell the Court of Appeals that although he was still confessing of being behind blasts in Tbilisi, but he had nothing to do with an attempted explosion of a railway bridge in western Georgia.