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Georgia Mutiny Trial Adjourned

Armored vehicles leaving the Mukhrovani base after putting down the mutiny in May.
Armored vehicles leaving the Mukhrovani base after putting down the mutiny in May.

The trial of 41 men accused of participating or conniving in the May 5 mutiny by a tank division based at Mukhrovani, near Tbilisi, was adjourned on September 19 after Gia Gvaladze, former commander of the Delta special assignment force and one of the presumed ringleaders, said he wished to engage a new defense lawyer. His current lawyer said Gvaladze planned to retract his earlier testimony and make a new statement exonerating his co-defendant, former National Guard commander Major General Koba Kobaladze.

The charges against Kobaladze were based solely on the initial testimony of Gvaladze, who was taken into custody on May 4, before the start of the insurrection. Gvaladze testified that Kobaladze and two other persons whom he did not immediately identify informed him in advance about their plans to seize power.

Gvaladze subsequently identified as one of the organizers of the mutiny Colonel Koba Otanadze, who formerly commanded a division based at Mukhrovani. Gvaladze initially said he met at a restaurant in Mtskheta, near Tbilisi, in late March with both Kobaladze and Otanadze to discuss the planned insurrection, but later said that meeting took place in late April.

Kobaladze, who was taken into custody later on May 5, denied any acquaintance with Gvaladze, or indeed any connection with the planned mutiny. He began a hunger strike immediately after his arrest, which he branded persecution on political grounds, according to the daily "Rezonansi" on June 1. Kobaladze's defense lawyers say they can produce witnesses who can testify that Kobaladze was not in Mtskheta at the time Gvaladze said the discussion took place

Otanadze was apprehended on May 21 following a special operation by Georgian security forces during which he was shot and wounded.

The trial of the 41 men opened in a Tbilisi court on August 21 but was immediately adjourned until September 1 because six of the accused had no defense lawyer. Twelve of the accused face charges of attempting to overthrow the Georgian government by force; 23 are charged with plotting to take over the base and declare disobedience to the Georgian authorities; five are accused of knowing about the planned insurrection in advance but failing to report those plans; and one with illegal possession and purchase of weapons.

Thirty-four persons, 21 of them military personnel, have pled guilty, and two -- partially guilty. Several others are reportedly still in plea-bargaining. Kobaladze and Otanadze both insist they are innocent, but one defendant claims to have seen Otanadze at Mukkhrovani early in the morning of May 5.

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.


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