07TBILISI2484, SENTENCING IN THE GIORGADZE TREASON CASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2484 2007-10-04 13:13 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6751
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2484/01 2771313
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041313Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7832
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002484 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: SENTENCING IN THE GIORGADZE TREASON CASE 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2019 
     B. TBILISI 2139 
     C. TBILISI 2151 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
------- 
 Summary 
 ------- 
 
1. (C)  As promised to the Ambassador (ref C) the office of 
the Prosecutor General made the trial court's decision in the 
Maia Topuria treason case available to the Embassy.  On 
August 24, the Tbilisi City Court found all 13 defendants 
linked to Igor Giorgadze's Justice Party guilty of treason in 
a conspiracy to violently take over the State Chancellery, 
site of the Georgian President's and Prime Minister's 
offices.  The court sentenced them to periods of imprisonment 
up to 8 years (ref B).  Topuria, Giorgadze's niece and an 
alleged ringleader of the conspiracy, was sentenced to 8 
years imprisonment.  Topuria's U.S. Counsel, Larry Barcella, 
claimed that the trial court's reasoning in the case was 
flawed because: 1) the government coached the witnesses, 2) 
the court rejected the defendants' alibi witnesses' testimony 
simply because of the witnesses' bias, and 3) the government 
changed the dates on documents in evidence from May 24 to May 
4 in order to implicate defendants who were allegedly absent 
from the country on May 4, when the conspiratorial 
conversations allegedly took place.  Post had the court's 
decision translated by a native Georgian speaker who is also 
a lawyer. Poloff and Embassy DOJ Legal Advisor have carefully 
reviewed the decision.  Post's assessment is that the Tbilisi 
Court supports its decision with objective evidence and 
addresses Barcella's concerns.  End Summary. 
 
---------------------- 
Background of the Plot 
---------------------- 
 
2.  (U)  Maia Topuria and several other Georgian citizens 
were arrested in September 2006 and charged with conspiracy 
to overthrow the government, preparation of an armed riot, 
and incitement to purchase illegal arms.  According to the 
findings of the trial court, Topuria held a meeting on May 4 
at the Samartlianoba (Justice) Party Headquarters to which 
she invited members of the Conservative-Monarchist Party and 
the Twenty-First Century Party.  Topuria briefed them about 
Giorgadze's plan to overthrow the existing Georgian 
government, with the assistance and financing from Russia. 
Firearms and other combat material were to be purchased and 
used during diversionary demonstrations, during which the 
State Chancellery would be overrun and occupied.   At the 
same time, security guards, who had been paid off by 
Giorgadze, would fire in the direction of protesters, causing 
civil unrest.  Using the advantage of the resulting 
confusion, some pre-recruited armed persons were to kill law 
enforcement ministers, thereby paralyzing these agencies. 
The President of Georgia, the Chairman of Parliament, and the 
Prime Minister were to be isolated and forced to resign, 
triggering special elections.  Except for two, all those 
present agreed to the plan, with the understanding that they 
would receive 3,000-5,000 USD for their participation.  The 
money was to finance recruitment of one hundred participants 
by each of them to take part in the armed actions.  It was 
understood that all participants would receive a guarantee of 
immunity from Igor Giorgadze after he came into power upon 
dissolution of the government. 
 
3.  (U) Police seized USD 46,730, 300 euros, and 780 Russian 
rubles from Topuria's apartment on September 6, which were 
allegedly destined for the pay-off of participants in the 
attack on the government.  On the same date two additional 
searches were carried out at the Office of the Youth Union of 
the Samartlianoba Party and at the residence of Kakhaber 
Kantaria, one of those charged along with Topuria.  The 
search at the Youth Union yielded nine polyethylene colored 
bags containing leaflets calling for violent overthrow of the 
government and the GEL 34,000 allegedly intended for use in 
carrying out the plan.  A search at Kakhabaer Kantaria's 
residence revealed a cache of firearms and combat material 
which included 29 submachine-guns (models AKM, AKMC, and 
AK-74) with ammunition, six sealed khaki color metal boxes 
intended for ammunition, 20 grenades, two sealed metal boxes 
for grenade rings, 29 small boxes labeled "TNT Unit 2002", 
one PKM-FT701-1968 machine gun and nine grenade guns with 
ammunition.  According to a ballistic examination report, the 
weapons seized were fully functional. 
 
------------------------------------ 
Procedural Concerns During the Trial 
------------------------------------ 
 
TBILISI 00002484  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
4.  (C) On August 24, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced all 13 
defendants charged in the case to prison.  Post met four 
times with Larry Barcella and Melinda Serafa, U.S. counsels 
for Topuria, to listen to their concerns about due process 
and violations of criminal procedures during the trial. 
Barcella protested the closure of the court room due to 
concerns about the safety of witnesses.  Post also raised the 
issue at higher levels with GoG authorities (refs
A and C). 
 
5.  (C) On September 21, the Embassy received a Georgian 
language version of the court's explanation of its verdict. 
A translation was carefully reviewed by the Embassy's 
Department of Justice Resident Legal Advisor.  Barcella has 
claimed that the reasoning in the case was flawed because: 1) 
the government coached the witnesses, 2) the court rejected 
the defendants' alibi witnesses' testimony simply because of 
the witnesses' bias, and 3) the government changed the dates 
on documents in evidence from May 24 to May 4 in order to 
implicate defendants who were allegedly absent from the 
country on May 24. 
 
----------------------- 
Were Witnesses Coached? 
----------------------- 
 
6.  (C) Barcella claimed that the government witnesses 
manufactured their testimony based on threats or coaching. 
The court specifically addressed this issue, noting that the 
witnesses themselves testified that their testimony was not 
the result of threats or coaching.  "Giorgi Siprashvili, Nino 
Khmaladze, Vaja Sikhradulidze, Ramin Adeishvili, Giorgi 
Bzishvili, Jumber Katamadze, Irma Jogiashvili and David 
Lomidze, as well as defendant Maia Nikoleishvili firmly 
denied any pressure or dictation of testimony from the 
representatives of law enforcement in the course of their 
interrogations and they also denied knowing each other." The 
existence of some slight differences in the witnesses' 
testimony may indicate that they were not coached. 
 
7.  (C) The witnesses' testimony is consistent with regard to 
the significant elements regarding the conspiracy (how it was 
to take place, when it was to take place, who would be 
involved, and the amounts to be paid), but certain witnesses 
recalled individuals being present at the May 4 meeting while 
others did not cite those people as being present.   This 
would appear to support a contention that the government did 
not coach or threaten them.  If the government had coached or 
threatened the witnesses, there would be no logical reason 
for some witnesses to mention certain conspirators' presence, 
but for other witnesses to forget to include some other 
conspirators. 
 
----- 
Bias? 
----- 
 
8.  (C) Barcella argued that the court rejected the 
defendants' alibi claims simply because the defense witnesses 
had a bias based on their prior relationships with the 
defendants.  The court noted on several occasions the 
witnesses' relationship with the defendants.  However, it 
also looked at objective evidence.  For example, the court 
noted that law enforcement officials found large sums of 
money at Maia Topuria's apartment. 
 
9.  (C) Similarly, the court rejected Topuria's claim that 
she could not have conducted a meeting on May 4 because she 
was giving an interview to Russian journalists that day.  It 
noted that based on documents from the Department of Border 
Protection, the only journalists to whom Topuria claims she 
spoke left Georgia on May 3.  "Prosecution was able to 
produce a record issued by the Department of Border 
Protection of Georgia showing that journalists D. Pimenov, 
and P. Gulenko crossed the national border of Georgia on May 
3, 2006, at 0637 am." 
 
------------------- 
May 24 versus May 4 
------------------- 
 
10.  (C)  Barcella claims that the prosecution changed the 
date of the conspiratorial meeting mentioned in documents 
presented in evidence from May 4 from May 24, after it 
learned that several defendants were out of the country on 
May 24.  The court addressed that issue as well, noting 
neither the defendants nor the court ever cite a document 
alleging a May 24 meeting.  Instead, the court noted that two 
search warrants--for the Samartlianoba Party's headquarters 
in Tbilisi and its regional office in Kakheti--cite May 4 as 
the day of the meeting.  The court concluded that the number 
 
TBILISI 00002484  003 OF 003 
 
 
"24" is only mentioned in connection with the Samartlianoba 
party's address in Tbilisi, 24 Rustaveli. "Defendants claim 
that as soon as arresting officials learned that some of them 
were outside of Georgia on May 24, they allegedly replaced 
the said date (May 24) in the court orders with May 4, 2006. 
The Court rejects the defendants' above allegations since the 
case material proved that court-issued warrants to search 
defendants' flats and offices were approved on September 5, 
2006, and search warrants did indicate the date of conspiracy 
to be May 4.  The number 24 was used in the court order only 
in connection with the address of the head office of the 
Samartlianoba Party which is 24 Rustaveli Ave." 
 
TEFFT

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