07TBILISI2139, MAIA TOPURIA CASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2139 2007-08-27 14:10 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1004
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2139/01 2391410
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271410Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7436
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002139 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: MAIA TOPURIA CASE 
 
REF: 2006 TBILISI 1630 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C). Summary:  On August 24, the Tbilisi City Court found 
all 13 defendants accused of plotting to overthrow the 
country's leadership in September 2006 guilty. Most of the 13 
are linked with Igor Giorgadze's Justice Party.  Igor 
Giorgadze is a Georgian fugitive wanted for attempted murder 
of President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995.  Georgian officials 
say Russia finances the Justice Party. Giorgadze's niece, 
Maia Topuria, was one of the 13 sentenced to eight and half 
years imprisonment. Her U.S. counsel questioned the legality 
of closing the case to the public and of witness statements, 
which they claimed were remarkably similar.  American Bar 
Association (ABA) Central Eastern European Law Initiative 
(CEELI) analysis of the case concludes that closing the 
courtroom is allowed under Georgian Law and is also 
consistent with international law. Prosecutor General 
Adeishvili was adamant that irrefutable evidence tied the 13 
defendants to the necessary criminal elements and that 
closing the court was a measured and justified response. 
Public response to the verdict is muted: aside from a brief 
mention during an Imedi television broadcast on Friday 
evening, and a small article buried deep within one local 
newspaper today, lack of public outcry is surprising, given 
the very strong advocacy of her legal defense to raise the 
profile of the case in Washington and European capitals.  End 
Summary. 
 
-------------------- 
The Verdict...Guilty 
-------------------- 
 
2.  (C) On August 24, the Tbilisi City Court found 13 
defendants guilty of plotting to overthrow the Georgian 
government in September 2006.   Most of the 13 are linked 
with Igor Giorgadze's Justice Party.  Igor Giorgadze is a 
Georgian fugitive wanted for the attempted assassination of 
President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995.  Georgian officials 
say Russia finances the Justice Party. Giorgadze's niece, 
Maia Topuria, was one of the 13 sentenced to eight and a half 
years imprisonment. Those sentenced have the right to appeal 
the judgment to the Court of Appeals one month after 
sentencing. The court's legal reasoning for finding the 
defendants guilty will be published in two weeks as required 
by Georgian law. 
 
------------------------- 
Drilling Down to the Crux 
------------------------- 
3.  (C)  Post met with Topuria's counsel, Mr. Larry Barbella 
and Ms. Melinda Serafa on at least three occasions.  Both 
lawyers claimed there were serious procedural irregularities 
with the case which would result in an unfair trial. First, 
they objected to closing the courtroom to the public. They 
stated that the judge could close the courtroom to protect 
the identity the of witness or national security. However, 
they negated the validity of this reasoning stating that the 
witnesses' names appeared in open media almost daily. They 
also claimed that no state secrets were revealed during the 
case.  (Interestingly, ABA/CEELI concluded that the GoG was 
well within its domestic and international rights to close 
the case.)  Secondly, counsel claimed that witness statements 
appeared to them to be blatantly coached, as the testimony, 
regardless of witness, they claimed, was virtually the same, 
word for word. Thirdly, counsel argued that the trial judge 
violated the nine month rule.  The nine month rule requires a 
detainee to be released if he/she is not sentenced within the 
nine month timeframe they believe applicable.  Barbella and 
Serafa both said that the judge arbitrarily chose the 
detention start date as other than was proscribed by the 
Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code.  The result was 
that the court illegally detained their client. As instructed 
by Washington, we told Topuria's counsel that post is not in 
a position to comment on the merits of the decision to close 
the trial, and that the Department's policy is not to 
interfere or comment on ongoing cases.  We noted that the 
information could be used in our annual Human Rights Report, 
if a clear violation of human rights occurred.  We encouraged 
Topuria's counsel to seek redress of procedural 
irregularities with the Prosecutor General and the Public 
Defender offices. 
 
------------------------ 
The Georgian Perspective 
------------------------ 
4. (C)  Ambassador and DAS Bryza both raised concerns with 
Prosecutor General Adeishvili about the international 
community's perceptions of procedural improprieties in the 
Topuria case and advocated for increased transparency.  He 
 
TBILISI 00002139  002 OF 002 
 
 
was adamant that irrefutable evidence proved the 13 guilty of 
the charged crimes and closing the court was a measured and 
justified response. Adeishvili's office rejects the argument 
that closing the proceedings denied the defendants' rights 
under Georgian law.  Defense lawyers have had full access to 
their clients, full access to the evidence, and full access 
to court proceedings.  Both Post and DAS reminded Adeishvili 
that he may well be within the legal boundaries to close the 
trial, but intern
ational misperceptions could have an 
influence on their strategic goals, such as  confidence in 
the rule NATO membership.  Both stressed that any decisions 
need to be procedurally perfect to withstand scrutiny. 
 
------------------------ 
No ROL backsliding Here 
------------------------ 
5.  (C) ABA/CEELI analysis of the case is that closure of the 
courtroom is clearly allowed under Georgian Law, which is 
consistent with international law.   Observers on the ground 
believe that the rule of law is moving forward in Georgia and 
do not believe the case is not indicative of widespread 
backsliding. 
 
---------------------- 
The Mouse that Roared 
---------------------- 
6.  (C) Public response to the verdict is muted: aside from a 
brief mention during an Imedi television broadcast on Friday 
evening, and a small article buried deep within one local 
newspaper today, lack of public outcry is surprising, given 
Topuria's legal team's very strong efforts to raise the 
profile of the case.  Unlike the Girgvliani case, where there 
was a large Georgian civil society and press outcry, 
sentencing in the Topuria cases hasn't raised any discernible 
public eyebrows (reftel A). 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
7.  (C) The verdict in the Topuria case is not surprising 
given the gravity of the case.  What is surprising is the 
lack of public reaction in the form of media coverage. True, 
Giorgadze's party is neither popular in Georgia nor well 
supported.  Perhaps the lack of strong response is due to the 
fact that Topuria's counsel dedicated many resources to her 
defense, but targeted those whom they felt could sway 
Georgia's decision makers--with influential people in 
Washington and Europe--rather than on Georgian popular 
opinion.  The question of who is funding Topuria's defense, 
which includes two Washington lawyers traveling back and 
forth to Tbilisi and Europe and a lobbyist remains a 
question, although there is considerable speculation that the 
Russian government is paying. 
 
8.  (C)  ABA/CEELI's analysis reflects that of post in that 
Georgia is not where it needs to be on judicial reform, but 
is well on the way.  While we strongly believe that Georgia 
should be mindful of international opinion as this ultimately 
will support or complicate her entry into NATO, we support a 
judicial system that is free from executive or third party 
interference.  All our training in the judicial realm here 
fully supports this independence and any other approach would 
countermand the accountability to which we urge the Georgians 
to aspire. 
 
9.  (C)  Although Topuria's counsel has arguably demonstrated 
a strong advocacy for their client, no other nongovernmental 
organization or disinterested party has come forth to voice 
the same concerns.  In fact, ABA/CEELI specifically 
recognizes that the GoG acted within its right to close the 
trial. 
TEFFT

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