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Commander's Testimony Fails To Substantiate Mukhrovani Coup Allegations

Georgian troops liberate the military base where a tank battalion apparently mutinied in the village of Mukhrovani, outside Tbilisi in May.
Georgian troops liberate the military base where a tank battalion apparently mutinied in the village of Mukhrovani, outside Tbilisi in May.
Colonel Shmagi Telia, who is commander of Georgia's land forces, testified on November 3 in the ongoing trial of military officers accused of plotting to overthrow the Georgian leadership.

But while Telia's statements indicate that at least two of the officers in question, Shota Gorgiashvili and Levan Amiridze, were profoundly unhappy with the atmosphere within the army following the August 2008 war in South Ossetia and were contemplating acts of disobedience, he could not confirm that they were pursuing any broader political objective. Nor could he say positively that three other men identified as the masterminds of the alleged coup were present at the Mukhrovani military base on the crucial morning of May 5.

Telia told the court that he was alerted between 6 and 7 a.m. local time on May 5 by a National Guard commander at Mukhrovani who informed him that "something was happening" within the tank battalion, which was commanded by Gorgiashvili. Telia said he was intercepted on his arrival at the base by unknown civilians who, after a brief altercation, took him to Gorgiashvili in an office adjacent to the one Gorgiashvili occupied as battalion commander.

Earlier, witnesses had testified the presence of up to 17 armed civilians at Mukhrovani that morning; from the summary of Telia's court testimony, it is not clear whether he said the civilians he spoke to were armed. The prosecution believes those civilians were abetting the men identified as the masterminds behind the intended coup d'etat.

Telia said he had an "unpleasant" conversation with Gorgiashvili and Amiridze that focused on discontent within the armed forces in general, and specifically the two men's shared conviction that it was inappropriate to hold a military parade on May 26 to mark the anniversary of the emergence of an independent Georgian republic in 1918.

Telia said Gorgiashvili and Amiridze said they would no longer comply with orders, but they could or would not say what their specific demands were. Echoing earlier testimony from other witnesses, Telia said Gorgiashvili assured him he did not plan to order the men under his command to leave the base or undertake any specific actions.

Telia said he has known both Gorgiashvili and Amiridze for years, that they "fought seriously" during the August 2008 war, and that he would characterize them both "positively."

Telia was then questioned by a defense lawyer for retired Colonel Koba Kobaladze, identified by the prosecution as one of the masterminds behind the alleged coup on the basis of testimony by another accused mutiny participant, Gia Gvaladze.

In testimony during the preliminary investigation, Telia said he could not rule out the possibility that Kobaladze and two other purported masterminds, Koba Otanadze and Gia Krialashvili, were in Gorgiashvili's office while he was talking to Gorgiashvili and Amiridze in the room next door. Telia said those two frequently left the room in the course of their discussion, possibly to consult with persons in Gorgiashvili's own office, but that he did not see those persons and was merely assuming that Kobaladze was one of them.

Not a single witness has yet testified to having seen Kobaladze at Mukhrovani on May 5, although several have said they saw Otanadze and Krialashvili in Gorgiashvili's office.

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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