Judge presiding over appeals court hearing into the case of series of explosions in Georgia in 2009-2010 has declined a motion for questioning a key figure into the case, who claims that his initial plea of guilt was obtained by investigators under duress.
Merab Kolbaia, who was arrested in February 2011 and sentenced to 30-years in prison in June, 2011 for carrying out terrorist acts in Georgia upon orders from an Abkhaz-based Russian military intelligence officer, was requesting the Court of Appeals to question him again as his confession and testimony during the investigation and then during the hearings in the court of first instance last year was made as a result of “torture”.
Kolbaia first made a verbal appeal to the court requesting his repeat questioning on April 12, but since then hearings have been adjourned twice.
During a hearing on April 24 a prosecutor, Vladimer Vekiliani, asked Kolbaia if he was really forced into confession during the investigation.
Kolbaia responded, that he received eight gunshot wounds in his legs (he was injured when arrested year ago) and that he had seen “nothing but torture” while in hospital. He also told the court that he even wanted to commit a suicide; Kolbaia also added, that in such a condition he had no idea what he was writing while giving his confession.
The prosecutor’s reaction to Kolbaia’s words was to ask the convict’s defense lawyer whether he had informed relevant authorities about it. Mate Kharchamadze, who is Kolbaia’s defense lawyer, responded that the Public Defender’s Office was informed about Kolbaia’s claims about torture.
After that defense lawyer filed a motion requesting the court to question his client. The prosecution spoke against the motion.
Judge Mikheil Bebiashvili declined the motion, citing that examination of evidence during the hearing into the case by the court of first instance, the Tbilisi City Court, last year was carried out without violation of procedures and laws and there was no need in re-questioning of the convict.
Kolbaia was seated in the courtroom separately from six other convicts, who deny terrorism charges and who also brought their cases to the Court of Appeals.
The case involves series of explosions, among them the one, which occurred outside the perimeter of the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi on September 22, 2010 and another one - outside the Labor Party office in Tbilisi on November 28, 2010, 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 attempted explosion of 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.” In June, 2011 the Tbilisi City Court found fifteen persons guilty of terrorism and sentenced most of them, some in absentia (including Borisov), to lengthy prison terms.