“Ivanishvili ordered kidnapping of journalist Mukhtarli” – confession from prison
Gogashvili’s letter from prison
Former deputy head of the State Security Service of Georgia, Soso Gogashvili, currently in prison, has published another letter from prison, in which he claims that it was on the order of oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili that Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi, after which recordings from surveillance cameras at the scene of the crime were deleted by the Operations and Technical Department of the SGB.
Furthermore, according to Gogashvili, on the personal order of Bidzina Ivanishvili, in 2017, the former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Gela Khvedelidze was assaulted “for swearing at Bidzina on the phone.” Video of this incident was also deleted.
In a statement today, Soso Gogashvili writes that his arrest is another illegal manoeuvre by Bidzina Ivanishvili, “blindly carried out by the head of the State Security Service, Grigol Liluashvili, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri.”
“Now it’s up to Shotadze [General Prosecutor – JAMnews] and Chinchaladze [Chairman of the Tbilisi Court of Appeal – JAMnews]. False testimony will be sewn into the case and unlawful punishment will be imposed. By the way, illegal activities was recorded by external and internal surveillance cameras and by members of my family, but I found out that the cameras were later damaged and the video deleted by the Operations and Technical Department, as during previous illegal escapades,” Gogashvili writes.
On Mukhtarli’s abudction
Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli moved to Georgia in 2014. He was known for his harsh criticism and exposés of the Azerbaijani government. He was persecuted in his homeland, so he took refuge in Georgia.
On the afternoon of May 29, 2017, Mukhtarli was kidnapped from the central district of Tbilisi, someone putting a bag over his head. The following day, the journalist found himself an Azerbaijani prison. There the court sentenced him to six years in prison on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling and disobedience of authorities.
After three years of imprisonment, on March 17, 2020, Mukhtarli was suddenly released and brought on a special flight to Germany, where his wife and son had been living since 2019.
Five years have passed since the abduction, and his case has not been investigated in Georgia. The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia officially investigated the case under the first part of Article 143 (illegal deprivation of liberty) and finally, on April 21, 2021, he was granted the status of victim.
The case has been reclassified, and an investigation is currently underway under the article on deprivation of liberty by prior conspiracy.
Regarding the assault of Gela Khvedelidze, this occurred near his home on April 2, 2017. Yet again, no video was preserved.
Victim weighs in
After the former deputy head of the State Security Service’s statement, Afgan Mukhtarli posted on Facebook demanding an investigation into Soso Gogashvili in the case of his abduction.
“Soso Gogashvili, as former deputy head of the State Security Service, knows all the details of my abduction. We demand his interrogation in the prosecutor’s office,” Afgan Mukhtarli wrote.
As Mukhtarli writes, in the near future lawyers will file an official petition with the Prosecutor General’s Office officially requesting an interrogation of Gogashvili.
The Azerbaijani journalist also called on the Georgian authorities and international organizations to strengthen protection of Soso Gogashvili, because “he knows too much and could be killed in prison.”
Today, Soso Gogashvili addressed the current Interior Minister and former head of the State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri and lodged further accusations against him:
“Six years ago you kidnapped your daughter’s fiancé, Amoyan or Shamoyan, I don’t remember. They tortured him and tossed him at the border of Armenia, and threatened that if he returned, they would hurt him, just because you didn’t want to let a Kurd into the house. By the time I was there, all your fucked up dealings were being dumped on me. Now you have collected all this garbage and want to dump it on me again?”
Soso Gogashvili was arrested on the night of July 15. His wife shared a video of the arrest. The video shows police entering the house, knocked Gogashvili to the floor and arrested him.
Details of the proceedings
On July 18, Tbilisi City Court fully shared the position of the prosecution and sentenced former deputy head of the State Security Service Soso Gogashvili to imprisonment as a measure of restraint.
However, the case materials contain secret documents and personal data, so Judge Arsen Kalatozishvili closed the meeting.
The former high-ranking SBU officer was charged on three counts:
- abuse of power by an official, entailing a significant violation of the legitimate interests of the state;
- illegal storage, receipt, and distribution of personal information;
- illegal acquisition and possession of firearms.
Prior to his arrest, Gogashvili claimed that he had handed over evidence of electoral fraud schemes to non-governmental organizations and the diplomatic corps.
Already on July 21, various NGOs made the evidence provided by Gogashvili public. The documents reveal a large-scale scheme to mobilize votes in favor of the ruling party by illegal means.
Gogashvili’s activities in the State Security Service are associated with several high-profile cases. In 2017, a high-ranking official led a special operation in the Pankisi Gorge that killed 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili.