Tbilisi City Court found five former MoD and general staff officials guilty of misspending and sentenced them to 7-year prison term on May 16.
One former and four serving officials from MoD and general staff of the armed forces were arrested on October 28, 2014 and charged with misspending GEL 4.1 million in an alleged sham tender in 2013 on laying fiber-optic cable.
This co called “cable case” led to first major split within the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and the firing of Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, followed by resignations of his two allies from cabinet posts.
It resulted in Alasania’s Free Democrats leaving the GD coalition in November, 2014. Alasania has been denouncing charges against the MoD officials as “politically motivated”.
All five men spent almost eight months in pre-trial detention before being released in June, 2015.
In August, 2015 Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli reinstated four men to their jobs – two of them served in MoD’s procurements unit and two others in general staff’s communications and IT department. The fifth one – former head of procurements unit – was no longer MoD employee at the time of the arrest in October, 2014.
In the May 16 verdict all five have also been banned from holding public office for two years. Almost eight months spent in pretrial detention will form part of the 7-year prison term.
Announcement of the guilty verdict sparked angry reaction in the courtroom packed by defendants’ relatives and supporters, among them leaders of the Free Democrats opposition party.
Tbilisi City Court judge, Besik Bugianishvili, had to finish reading out the verdict in an almost empty chamber after ordering to expel the audience out of the courtroom.
“There are no elements of crime whatsoever in the case,” defense lawyer, Levan Samushia, told journalists after the verdict was delivered. “The only thing that the judge can write as a motive behind such ruling is that he was ordered to deliver guilty verdict.”
He said that the defense will take the case to the Appeals Court. The verdict can be appealed within a month.
Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats party, told journalists outside the courtroom: “We were not expecting such injustice, such unfair verdict from the judge.”
“We know that Ivanishvili-Kvirikashvili government is controlling the courts, prosecutor’s office, but we still did not expect that the judge would have been forced to take such a decision. We will continue legal battle now in the Appeals Court. I want to promise to [ex-PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili that this decision will be the one that will put an end to his government,” Alasania said.