Georgian Interior Ministry said on October 3 that an IT specialist working for a Russian mobile service operator company in Sokhumi, capital of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia, is suspected of being behind 'jihad threat' video.
The suspect was identified by the Interior Ministry as Samar Chokutaev, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.
Chokutaev is a senior network engineer at Aquafon, a subsidiary of Russian mobile operator Megafon in breakaway Abkhazia, since December, 2012.
In a video titled “Taliban Jihad Against Georgian Troops in Afghanistan”, which emerged on the internet in early June, voiceover in English threatens Georgian troops in Afghanistan, their family members, mentions President Saakashvili for several times and warns of bringing jihad into Georgia; there have always been suspicions that the video was in fact a meager attempt to imitate Taliban.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said criminal charges for making call for terrorism were filed against Chokutaev and the Tbilisi City Court ordered his pre-trial detention in absentia.
The Interior Ministry said that it was making public only part of the information in connection to this case, but withholding some details citing sensitivity of the investigation.
It said that the video was uploaded on the Internet from Abkhazia, using USB sticks of Geocell, Magti and Beeline mobile operator companies operating in Georgia; their service also covers small portion of breakaway Abkhazia via cellular towers located close to the administrative boundary line. USB internet sticks were obtained in Zugdidi on the Georgian-controlled side of the administrative boundary line, according to the Interior Ministry.
The Interior Ministry said that using Malaysia-based server Samar Chokutaev gained unauthorized access to internet networks of two Tbilisi-based “private organizations” and used their routers for uploading the video in order to create false impression as if the video was uploaded from Tbilisi. Those two private entities were not specified by the Interior Ministry.
The Interior Ministry thanked security agencies of “allied countries” for providing support in investigating this case.
The case, which for some time was high on political agenda with the opposition criticizing government for a failure to promptly identify those behind the video, gained new political twist earlier this week, revealing, at least, lack of communication between the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry.
First announcement by the Interior Ministry about resolving the case was made on October 1, a day after Defense Minister Irakli Alasania complained publicly for the case remaining unresolved. But Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that the case was in fact already resolved and it happened a month ago; and his spokesperson said that the Defense Minister should have communicated with the Interior Ministry before making statements on the matter.
Speaking on Tbilisi-based TV3’s talk show on October 30, Alasania said while responding on the question about investigation into ‘jihad threat’ video: “This issue remains on the agenda. This is very regrettable that there is no news in this respect and I hope that light will be shed on this case in the nearest future or at least the defense ministry will have information whether or not progress is possible [in this investigation], because the defense ministry also has its intelligence service and we will resort to alternative ways of finding truth behind this case.”
“If there is no progress in the process of investigation carried out by the interior ministry of course we will activate our resources, including international ones and also defense ministry’s intelligence capabilities, because it was a direct attack on Georgian armed forces. I know this is a difficult case, but it has to be investigated,” Alasania said on September 30.
On October 1 Interior Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, told journalists this case had been resolved a month ago and details would be released on October 3. It was not clear why the information was withheld for a month, not even shared with cabinet members including with the Defense Minister.
After the Interior Minister said that the case was resolved, Alasania told journalists on September 1: “Everyone is very glad that the case has been investigated.”