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11 Jan, 2010 10:36

Georgian military mutiny plotters sentenced

A Tbilisi court has sentenced eighteen people to up to 29 years behind bars for organizing and taking part in an alleged mutiny at a military base and attempted military coup on May 5, 2009.

The troops at the tank battalion mutiny at a base in Mukhrovani village rebelled against authorities, but agreed to lay down arms the same day after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili urged them to give up. After the coup was crushed, over 40 people were arrested and 21 suspects stood trial for their role in the mutiny.

On Monday, a judge delivered a verdict finalizing the Mukhrovani trial.

Koba Kobaladze, a former National Guard commander, was acquitted of charges that he attempted to forcefully overthrow the Georgian government.

“The court found my client not guilty of organizing the mutiny, although guilty of the illegal purchase and possession of weapons,” his lawyer Gela Nikolaishvili is quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Initially, Kobaladze was to face a 13-year-long term. He was sentenced to eight months and six days in prison, but this term has since run out, and he was released.

Former Colonel Koba Otanadze – who was seen by the prosecution as one of the main organizers of the mutiny – was sentenced to 29 years behind bars, Civil.ge reports. An ex-commander of rangers’ battalion Levan Amiridze got sentenced to 28 years in jail. Shota Gorgiashvili, a commander of the tank battalion in Mukhrovani at the time of the mutiny, was sentenced to a 19-year-long prison term.

All three were charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The officers, however, denied the accusations and their lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Other defendants in the case were sentenced to terms of three to fifteen years of imprisonment for various crimes including disobedience and illegal weapons possession.

“This is an expected farce. We knew what was going to happen. It’s the utmost injustice that can happen in a country that the people who were fighting in a war, the professionals, are now accused of having been traitors – when the main traitor of the country is its president,” says Salome Zurabishvili, Georgia’s former Foreign Minister and one of the opposition leaders.