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Ten Alleged Georgian Mutiny Participants Retract Guilty Pleas

Ten of the 41 men charged in connection with the purported mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base near Tbilisi on May 5 retracted their pleas of guilty on September 30 and refused to testify further. It is not clear why they did so; before the trial began, then human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari told RFE/RL that his office sought to clarify reports that at least some of the defendants had been beaten and/or tortured.

Also on September 30, former Colonel Koba Kobaladze, who was charged as one of the purported masterminds behind the mutiny on the basis of testimony by a second participant, Gia Gvaladze, denied any knowledge of or role in the plot. Kobaladze further said acquaintances with connections to the Georgian government had warned him shortly before the incident that the authorities wanted him to leave the country for fear he could be co-opted by the opposition. Georgian opposition parties jointly launched open-ended protests in early April to demand that President Mikheil Saakashvili resign.

Five of the 10 defendants who now profess their innocence face charges related to the planned coup and of illegal possession of weapons; four more are charged with refusing to obey orders and with possession of weapons and explosives; and the tenth with refusing to obey orders. Former Mukhrovani unit commander Shota Gorgiashvili and the former commander of the Tbilisi-based rangers battalion, Levan Amiridze, both of whom have pleaded guilty to disobeying orders but who deny any role in the alleged coup, similarly refused to testify on September 30. The prosecution has named them both as organizers of the planned coup.

Kobaladze on September 30 spoke at length of his military career, but denied ever having met Gvaladze, on whose testimony alone the charges against Kobaladze are based. Kobaladze admitted knowing Amiridze but said he did not maintain close contact with him.

Kobaladze recalled that he was asked by journalists on May 5 when news of the mutiny first broke to comment on video footage released by the Interior Ministry in which Gvaladze named him as one of the coup masterminds, together with former Defense Minister David Tevzadze and former National Security Minister Jemal Gakokhidaze. Kobaladze said he replied that he did not know what Gvaladze was talking about. Gvaladze for his part subsequently admitted that he mentioned Tevzadze and Gakokhidze only to impress on potential fellow conspirators he sought to recruit the level of support for the planned undertaking.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.