Court orders arrest of Georgian politician over Moscow street riots

Court orders arrest of Georgian politician over Moscow street riots
A district court in Moscow has sanctioned in absentia arrest for former Georgian MP Givi Targamadze, suspected of organizing and funding mass unrest in Russia.

The court on Thursday satisfied the request of the top Russian law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, which in mid-February officially charged Targamadze with plotting last year’s street riots in Moscow.

Investigators claim that only by putting their suspect in custody can he be prevented from pressuring witnesses or in other ways affecting the course of the probe. They also said that they had tried to establish Targamadze’s whereabouts, but failed to do so.

Earlier on Thursday the court supported the law enforcers’ request to put the suspect on the international wanted list.

Lawyer Galina Stepanenkova told the media on Thursday that Targamadze’s defense would appeal his arrest in absentia.

According to the Investigative Committee, Targamadze is providing advice to radical opposition forces in various countries and it was him who organized and funded the street riots in Moscow on May 6 last year. On this day a peaceful protest march ended in violence and several dozen people were arrested for attacking police officers and causing unrest.

Targamadze was charged within the same criminal case with Russians Sergey Udaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev. These people are activists of unregistered opposition movements who were also detained over the riots, but face charges of organizing them.

Razvozzhayev is currently in pre-trial custody and Udaltsov and Lebedev have been put under house arrest.

When Russian investigators first said they were pressing charges against Targamadze, Georgia’s Main Prosecutors’ Office replied that the suspect’s extradition was out of the question as this contradicted the country’s constitution.

The main evidence against Targamadze is a hidden camera record, supposedly made in Minsk, Belarus, in summer 2012. In this film the politician, who was at that time the head of the Defense and Security Committee of the Georgian Parliament, allegedly negotiated the massive anti-Kremlin protests and the payment for them with Udaltsov and others.

The film was aired by Russian television in October and after this the Investigative Committee launched a probe into its allegations and pressed charges against Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev and Lebedev.

Udaltsov and Lebedev insisted that they were never plotting riots, but admitted that they had a meeting with some Georgian politicians in the summer of 2012 in Minsk.

After the film was released, Targamadze made comments to Russian press and claimed that he had never spoken to any of the activists and never met the three suspects in the case. The politician added that the video of him was possibly real, but suggested that the voices in the film were added, blasting the whole piece as propaganda not worthy of discussion.

In the same comments Targamadze said that he fully sympathized with the Russian street opposition and supported their cause.

However, the defense attorney representing one of the suspects has told the press that Russian investigators had already questioned Targamadze, but refused to elaborate citing his professional oath not to disclose details of the investigation.