The judge delivered on January 11 a split verdict into the trial known as Mukhrovani mutiny clearing retired general Koba Kobaladze of coup charges, but jailing other key defendants to a lengthy prison terms.
The judge, however, found Kobaladze guilty of illegal keeping firearm and hand-grenades and sentenced him of eight months in prison. But as Kobaladze has been detained for eight months already, since May 5, he was released from the courtroom immediately after judge Jemal Kopaliani delivered the verdict. The prosecution wanted 13 years and six months of prison term for Kobaladze for the both charges.
“I did not expect such ruling by the judge; I thought I would have continued my struggle in Strasbourg [European Court of Human Rights],” Kobaladze told Civil.Ge after he left the courtroom.
Koba Otanadze, a retired army colonel, who was named by the prosecution as one of the key organizers of the mutiny to overthrow the government, was found guilty of all three charges and sentenced to 29 years in prison. Apart of mutiny and coup charges he was also charged with illegal possession of arms and disobedience.
Levan Amiridze, who at the time was a commander of rangers’ battalion, was found guilty of mutiny to overthrow the government and disobedience and sentenced to 28-year prison term.
Shota (Mamuka) Gorgiashvili, who at the time was a commander of the tank battalion in Mukhrovani, was found guilty of similar charges as Amiridze and sentenced to 19-year prison term.
A former commander of the Kutaisi-based 3rd brigade, Kakha Kobaidze, was found guilty of not reporting the crime and sentenced to 3-year prison term and GEL 10,000 fine.
A former commander of the Gori-based 1st brigade, Davit Sulkhanishvili, was also found guilty of not reporting the crime and sentenced to 3-year conditional prison term and GEL 20,000 fine. Unlike Kobaidze, Sulkhanishvili pleaded guilty.
Koba Kobaladze’s case was the weakest point of the prosecution, as charges against him were solely based on controversial testimonies by Gia Gvaladze, who was convicted to two-years in prison through plea bargain in early October. He was facing charges related with mutiny to overthrow the government.
Defense lawyers of Otanadze, Amiridze and Gorgiashvili said they would appeal the verdict to higher court as they disagree with coup-related charges. They said the fact that the judge turned down Gvaladze’s testimonies in respect of Kobaladze will be an important part of their case in the court of appeals, as Gvaladze’s testimonies were also major evidence of the prosecution against Otanadze, Amiridze and Gorgiashvili. But unlike in Kobaladze’s case, in respect of three men and other co-defendants the prosecution also put forth other evidence.
The judge’s ruling actually means that he shared the prosecution’s version saying that developments in Mukhrovani-based tank battalion eight months ago were mutiny with an eventual goal to overthrow the government and not just disobedience by several military commanders.
The judge has yet to deliver a comprehensive justification of his verdict. After this justification paper is delivered the defense lawyers will be able to appeal to the higher court.
The judge also found guilty a former pilot of MI-8 helicopter, Zurab Chalatashvili, who served in the Alekseevka air base, of not reporting the crime and sentenced him to 3 years in prison.
Zurab Bzishvili, a former tank crew member from the Mukhrovani base, was found guilty of disobedience and illegal relocation of an armored vehicle and sentenced to nine years in prison.
In another significant part of the verdict, in respect of seven civilians who were charged with mutiny to overthrow the government, the judge ruled that the crimes committed by them should be instead qualified as providing assistance to disobedience. They were sentenced to prison terms varying from ten to 15 years. They were also found guilty of charges related with illegal possession of firearm.
Other five civilians were found guilty of disobedience and illegal possession of firearm and sentenced to prison terms varying from 9 to 10 years.
Also on January 11, the judge approved a plea bargain between one more civilian into the case, Zaza Sandodze, a relative of Koba Otanadze, and the prosecution; as a result he was sentenced to two years in prison for charges related with illegal possession of arms, not reporting the crime and resisting the police orders.