Torture, kidnapping, fabricated cases: former prosecutor of Georgia under the spotlight
Rustavi-2 aired an audio recording on Sunday evening in which a former high-ranking official of the prosecutor’s office, Mirza Subeliani, says he has compromising information against the current authorities, including cases of kidnapping and torture.
Subeliani is currently in pre-trial custody and stands accused of concealing a crime in which two teenagers died in the centre of Tbilisi on 1 December last year.
Subeliani says that the information may bring many people out onto Rustaveli [a central street in Tbilisi where protests have traditionally taken place in the past] and end Georgian Dream’s reign of power.
The 1.5 hour recording touches on several very high-profile cases in the country, and reveals several new details regarding the deaths of the two teenagers.
JAMnews summarises the main points of the recording:
What happens in the recording and who is speaking?
Rustavi-2 reported that the recording was made in Subeliani’s cell in Gldani Prison No 8.
In the recording, two others speak in addition to Subeliani. Rustavi-2 says that these voices belong to Georgian Dream MP Viktor Japaridze and former high-ranking official from the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons and Subeliani’s right-hand man, David Tsukhishvili.
Subeliani speaks for most of the recording, while Tsukhishvili speaks the least of the three.
The recording positions Japaridze as mediator between Subeliani and the authorities and as someone who came to see Subeliani in prison to discuss a certain problem.
Subeliani asks Japaridze to speak with Giorgi Gakharia, the minister of internal affairs, and give him specific messages which pertains to Subeliani having compromising information against the authorities. However, he states that he will not use it, and in return, he expects “more attention” from them.
Subeliani says he is dissatisfied by the authorities’ seemingly indifferent attitude towards him, and this is the major topic of the recording.
When was the recording made?
Rustavi-2 says that the recording is new, and this is confirmed by the topics it touches on. Subeliani states that he has more compromising information on the authorities than does the founder of the Omega Group, Zaza Okuashvili. Okuashvili made certain allegations against the authorities in an interview with Rustavi-2 several weeks ago.
“This isn’t comparable to what Okuashvili has. We have terabytes of wonders that nobody has even heard of,” says Subeliani in the recording.
Who made the recording, and is it staged?
The authenticity of the recordings has not yet been confirmed, while Rustavi-2 has not revealed its source.
However, one of the participants of the conversation, MP Viktor Japaridze, did confirm that he met with Subeliani. However, he says that he does not take the words of the former employee of the prosecutor’s office seriously. The Georgian prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into illegal wiretapping and violating the right to privacy.
The meat of the recording
Subeliani says that he presided over and solved a number of shady affairs during his time in office and that the authorities did not thank him sufficiently for his dedication.
Subeliani says that he kept and collected incriminating evidence against the authorities and recorded conversations with officials.
“What, do you think I was so stupid as to not cover myself at these meetings where they gave out their f*cking orders and not do as I have [make audio recordings]?” Subeliani says in the recording.
Subeliani says he can create serious problems for the authorities:
“You’ll see what people taking to streets is. You don’t need anything [to make them do that], just a few recordings. The entire Rustaveli Street and the ‘Dream’ will be no more, believe me,” says Subeliani to Japaridze.
What information does Subeliani have and what cases is he talking about?
Subeliani says that he participated in the resolution of concrete cases and issues – largely criminal affairs in which officials of the former governments were convicted. In particular, he mentioned the murder of Sergo Tetradze, the Navtlugi Special Operation and the prison riot for which former minister of defence Bacho Akalhaia is serving a sentence. The so-called Vano Case is also mentioned, which supposedly refers to an incident in which the former PM Vano Merabishvili was illegally taken from prison and unofficially interrogated by then-prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze. The authorities deny that this ever took place.
Subeliani says that he was the man responsible for “taking care” of this shady case.
He also says the following phrase:
“…when we tortured witnesses in the Bacho Akhalaia [case].” He says that he turned thieves [“thieves in law” is a term used for professional criminals within organised crime] into snitches and forced them to leak info that would later be used as evidence against Akhalaia. “This was an unprecedented thing [that happened], in all of history there has been nothing like this … using this [evidence] alone they convicted Bacho.”
“The prison affair” was a large revolt that took place in Tbilisi Prison No 5 in Ortachala on 27 March 2006. The prison has since been closed. Several prisoners died in clashes with special forces units at the time, and the revolt became the subject of heated political debate.
The recording mostly touches on cases that took place during the reign of the United National Movement (UNM), however, the Khardziani Case, a contract killing which took place under Georgian Dream, was also mentioned. It is unclear what Subeliani means and why he brings up this case and how the authorities might be involved.
“Beginning with the Tetradze case, the Navtlugi operation … everything for which they received their positions, the Khardziani case, the Vano affair, what do you think, who executed them?” Subeliani asks in the recording.
The adolescent murder case and prison time for the sake of “saving the state”
Should the Subeliani recordings be deemed authentic, they will turn the murder case of two adolescents in downtown Tbilisi on 1 December on its head.
The public came to know Subeliani because of the homicide case on Khorava Street. The nephew of Subeliani’s wife and a minor, Mikhail Kalandia, was involved in the case. Zaza Saralidze, the father of David Saralidze, one of the adolescents that was killed, says that Subeliani covered for his relative and falsified case evidence, as a result of which it is still unclear as to who killed David Saralidze.
Subeliani is in prison for concealing the crime.
However, the recording makes it clear that Subeliani’s imprisonment has more to do with his deal with the authorities rather than a court verdict.
Subeliani says that he was asked by the authorities to go to prison because of the public outrage over the affair in order to “save the state” – and that he did, of his own free will. Subeliani says he also made a pact with the authorities as to his term: one year in prison and one year on parole.
Subeliani repeatedly stresses that he is doing everything he can for the “state”. However, the context leads one to assume that he is really talking about the current authorities.
“I thought the state would see that ‘he went to prison for us, he saved us,’ and that they’d say, ‘you’ll get out, Mirza, and you’ll get this and that,’ but what am I really getting?”
Subeliani asks MP Viktor Japaridze to remind the minister Gakharia about the terms of their agreement.
“You know what you can tell Gakharia? … make sure he gets the message, I don’t intend to bring anyone down. [Let them] leave me in peace, they gave their word and [let them] keep their promise. They should see that my sentence is passed by the New Year. My trial is on 15 November,” says Subeliani in an offended tone.
The main reason behind Subeliani’s resentment is that former Tbilisi prosecutor Mikhail Shakulashvili gave testimony to a parliamentary committee which contradicted Subeliani’s own version of events and evidence.
Subeliani says that while giving evidence, he was lost and confused because nobody had approached him in prison and given him guidance about what he should tell the investigation.
Subeliani gets angry in the recording because of a “lack of attention” from the authorities, and that he and his family have again ended up in the centre of attention of journalists and now they may accuse him of perjury:
“[They shouldn’t] accuse me of giving false testimony. Let them accuse me of torture, like when we tortured witnesses in the Bacho Akhalaia case … Remember the prison riot,” Subeliani says.
Mirza Subeliani says that he has an entire archive of compromising information against Shakulashvili, which is being kept in Germany, by which he means some 192 telephone messages left by the Tbilisi prosecutor, the content of which Subeliani does not reveal.
Subeliani’s squad of 50
The recording makes it clear that Subeliani had a squad of 50 armed individuals who carried out his instructions. In one part Subeliani calls them “machine gunners” who made people afraid to get close to them.
Subeliani says that had he decided not to go to prison himself, nobody would have agreed to try and imprison him because of his squad.
He mentions the methods that he has used over the years to sort out issues for the authorities, including kidnapping and beating people.
“That’s why I asked Sozar (the minister of internally displaced persons and the former minister of corrections Sozar Subari, Subeliani’s cousin), to give jobs to these guys [the squad]. They were the ones that carried out the special operation. They did everything … such as kidnap people, nothing was an obstacle to them,” Subeliani says.