Mirza Subeliani, a former official in the Prosecutor’s Office, who had implicated senior Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) officials in case-fixing and other criminal offenses, attempted suicide late on October 15, the Penitentiary Service reported on October 16.
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 Zaza Saralidze.
- On October 14, Rustavi 2 TV, a national broadcaster leaning strongly towards opposition, aired a covertly recorded audio tape of what appears to be a conversation of inmate Mirza Subeliani with MP Viktor Japaridze of the ruling Georgian Dream party and Davit Tsukhishvili, a former official in the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons. The recording implicates senior officials in case-fixing and other offenses. These recordings were allegations made in a prison facility, where Subeliani is in pre-trial detention. They were apparently made in late September or early October.
- Today, on October 16, the Prosecutor’s Office released the second batch of covert recordings, which were allegedly taken earlier than the first batch, in July. As in the first tape, Subeliani is speaking with MP Japaridze. He is recorded as saying that he feels betrayed by the government, who, he feels, is going to aggravate his charges and sentence under political pressure from Saralidze investigation. He tells his interlocutor that he is ready to “lie” about sensitive topics, so as to put the pressure on the government. Then he proceeds to list all the cases, which were mentioned in the tape released by Rustavi 2, as potential topics he is prepared to lie about, just to damage the GDDG.
In a statement released alongside the second batch of recordings, the Prosecutor’s Office explained these were found on the memory card of I.P., the prison officer who, the prosecution claims, was pressured to release the first recording.
The prosecution said it decided to release the second batch “considering high public interest” following the release of the first batch on TV.
The statement also said the prosecution holds one more, additional batch of recordings, which were not released at this stage, and the precise content of which remains unknown.
The Prosecutor’s Office added that “one of the versions the investigation is pursuing, is that Mirza Subeliani might be influencing the results of inquiry into his case through publishing false, fabricated accusations.”
Already yesterday, on October 15, the Prosecution said the “preliminary analysis” of the first batch of audio recordings, led the investigation to “actively consider the version that the recordings could have been staged by a group of individuals for future use.”
Rustavi 2 director claims prosecution recording ‘was staged’
Nika Gvaramia, director general of Rustavi 2 TV, claims in turn that the Prosecution has staged the second batch of recordings.
On October 15, Gvaramia told Rustavi 2 reporters that MP Japaridze was brought to Subeliani’s prison cell to record a new, fake conversation which would discredit the one published by the Rustavi 2 TV station a day earlier.
Updated: Internet portal On.ge has obtained a copy of permission, issued by Parliament Speaker Kobakhidze, that authorized MP Japaridze to meet Subeliani on 14 October, the same day when the first batch of recordings was released by Rustavi 2.
Web Magazine Liberali has obtained copies of all permissions issued by Speaker Kobakhidze to authorize MP Japaridze’s visits to Subeliani. According to the official documents, the right to visit was granted on 6 July, 20 July, 10 September, 11 October და 14 October, 2018. Rustavi 2 says the recording aired by them, was made on 11 October. Prosecution claims that their batch was recorded on 6 July.
In a press briefing today, Gvaramia referred to his own prediction and accused the authorities of attempting to cover up one “systemic crime” with another.
Gvaramia then proceeded to point at several problems with the second batch of recordings:
- Firstly, he said the authorities did not to provide information on how the new audio recording was obtained. The Prosecution said the first batch was obtained illegally and has launched an inquest into the matter, but the second batch was released without the comment concerning its source or legality. Unauthorized eavesdropping is a criminal offense in Georgia.
- Secondly, Gvaramia pointed out, that in case MP Japaridze was told by Subeliani already in July, that he was going to falsely accuse the GDDG officials, why would he a) not notify the GDDG, his own party beforehand and especially b) why when Subeliani repeated the accusations in September, Japaridze did not retort, that he already knew – from Subeliani – these claims were patently false. Gvaramia said “it appears [from their recording] that Japaridze is also complicit in what Subeliani was planning,” he noted.
- He also flagged several irregularities in the manner of the conversation, pointing unnatural intonations, monotonous flow and excessive use of formal language in the second batch, as opposed to expletive-ridden first batch, expressing suspicion that Japaridze and Subeliani “were reading from a script” and were aware that their conversation was being recorded.
- He also pointed out that in the new recording Subeliani makes reference to the teen murder case and says he is “aware of the developments on Rustaveli.” Gvaramia suggests Subeliani was referring to the solidarity rallies held in front of the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. He says the rallies were over by June 11, which contradicts Subeliani’s account.
Gvaramia concluded by saying that the television station holds more – “longer” and “more natural” – audio recordings, depicting conversations about “grave facts.” He director provided no further details, but announced that the tapes will be released in the coming days.