Rustavi 2 TV, one of the two most-watched television stations in Georgia, aired on October 14 a covertly recorded audio tape of what appears to be a conversation of inmate Mirza Subeliani with the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) MP Viktor Japaridze and Davit Tsukhishvili, a former official in the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons.
Who is Mirza Subeliani?
Mirza Subeliani, a former employee of the Prosecutor’s Office, was arrested on June 9 following mass public protests over the Khorava street murder of December 2017, which left two 16-year-olds – Davit Saralidze and Levan Dadunashvili – stabbed to death.
Subeliani’s son was involved in a street-fight that lead to deaths, as was his nephew, Mikheil Kalandia, the main case witness. Zaza Saralidze, the father of one of the murdered teens, claims Subeliani, as the prosecution official, was closely involved in covering up some elements of the crime. Subeliani was detained on charges of failure to report crime after thousands of Georgians have hit the streets in solidarity with Saralidze.
When was the recording made?
The audio recording, obtained from anonymous sources, appears to have been made recently, either in late September or early October, as participants refer to the Okuashvili affair, a series of allegations leveled recently against GDDG.
Why is the recording important?
- Subeliani suggests, that his detention was pre-arranged with the authorities to defuse the protest and the deal was made concerning the maximum sentence he would serve in prison. He says the arrangement was made personally with Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia;
- The inmate says he helped cover up the role of two persons in the Khorava street murder case, but does not specify their identities. He also notes that the authorities would have detained his nephew long ago, but have not done so, as they are afraid it will dismantle “the underlying case,” possibly meaning the murder of Davit Saralidze;
- He claims to have been an unofficial “fixer” for the prosecution and political officials in several high profile cases, including ex-PM Vano Merabishvili’s alleged removal from prison, retired colonel Sergo Tetradze’s case, 2006 Navtlugi special operation and the 2006 prison riot. Subeliani says he and his affiliates were forcing witnesses to give testimonies on these cases, including through torture.
- In addition, Subeliani claims his services were requested and/or condoned by several high officials, including Sozar Subari, PM Mamuka Bakhtadze’s advisor and former prisons minister, ex-PM Irakli Gharibashvili and three former chief prosecutors – Archil Kbilashvili, Otar Partskhaladze and Irakli Shotadze.
Why was Subeliani speaking?
Subeliani was speaking to MP Japaridze in confidence, to act as a go-between between himself and Interior Minister Gakharia. Subeliani seemed to be discontent by the delay of his court trial and also by some statements of the officials that either do not support him, or worse, contradict his deposition.
Subeliani seemed to be particularly angered at Mikheil Shakulashvili, the teen murder case prosecutor, who in his deposition to the ad hoc Parliamentary commission created to look into the case, confirmed on July 23, that he met Subeliani shortly after the murder of Saralidze and Dadunashvili. During his own deposition one day earlier, Subeliani had denied that such meeting took place.
What was Subeliani trying to achieve?
During the conversation, Subeliani is speaking about his ability to blackmail the officials, while saying he has been so far refraining to do so for considerations of duty and honor.
He implies that he holds evidence of illegal dealings – “terabytes of data” – and warns he will publish these materials. He asks MP Japaridze to convey his discontent to Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and accelerate the trial process.
GDDG lawmaker says tapes real, Subeliani’s points ‘not serious’
MP Viktor Japaridze confirmed that the conversation did take place and that he visited the prison cell through his MP credentials. Japaridze also noted that the points raised by Mirza Subeliani “did not seem serious,” and that he “was speaking inadequately.” Japaridze claimed he had “no reaction” to Subeliani’s requests.
Official response pending
The government officials are expected to comment today. The Prosecutor’s Office released statement yesterday, saying that an inquest was launched into illegal recording of the conversation, but did not comment on the substance of allegations.