Heavy jail terms for Georgia mutiny leaders
Tbilisi: A Georgian court on Monday sentenced to jail terms of up to 30 years three ringleaders of a mutiny last year aimed at overthrowing the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The brief uprising, which the defence ministry described as a military coup, took place in a tank battalion at the Mukhrovani base outside Tbilisi in May 2009. It ended without violence after an hours-long standoff.
Koba Otanadze, a retired army colonel, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on mutiny and coup charges as well as illegal possession of arms and disobedience, the Tbilisi city court said in a statement.
Levan Amiridze, who at the time was a commander of a military rangers' battalion, was found guilty of mutiny to overthrow the government and disobedience and sentenced to a 28 year prison term.
Shota Gorgiashvili, then a commander of the tank battalion in Mukhrovani, was found guilty of similar charges as Amiridze and sentenced to a 19 year prison term.
However another protagonist, retired general Koba Kobaladze, was cleared of coup charges.
The defence lawyers of Otanadze, Amiridze and Gorgiashvili told Georgian television they would appeal the verdict to a higher court as they disagreed with the coup-related charges.
The judge’s ruling echoed the version of prosecutors that the mutiny had an eventual goal to overthrow the government and was not just disobedience by several military commanders.
Authorities initially blamed the mutiny on its main foe Russia -- with which it fought a brief war with Georgia in August 2008 -- but then backed away from the claim.
Georgia's opposition accused the government of staging the rebellion to distract attention from protests that were then in progress against Saakashvili.