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Former President’s son detained

By David Matsaberidze
Friday, September 5
The son of late President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia was detained on the evening of September 3 at Tbilisi International Airport. Allegedly his arrest is related to what is called a “failed coup d’etat” in November 2007.

Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, who is wanted by Georgia for alleged espionage for Russia and alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government, was reportedly arrested upon arriving from Moscow via Baku. He was taken to the building of Module branch of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has stated that Gamsakhurdia will be charged according to Clause 315 (Conspiracy and Rebellion for the Overthrow of Constitutional Order) and Clause 314 (Conspiracy) of the Georgian Criminal Law Code.

The serious accusations are being supported by additional material obtained through bugging, undertaken in accordance with the acting Criminal Law. Reportedly, a criminal case has been filed at the Security and Counterespionage Service of the Ministry of Interior Affairs against three employees of the Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation. These three people, named as Sokolov, Solomatin and Volinkin, are accused of espionage, with Tsotne Gamsakhurdia allegedly being one of their Georgian contacts.

On November 7 2007, after riot police broke up the anti-governmental demonstration, the Interior Ministry released a video showing Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, who is a brother of Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the leader of the opposition Freedom Party, meeting with a Russian diplomat in Tbilisi. The authorities claimed that some opposition leaders were co-operating with the Russian counterintelligence service. A separate taped phone conversation has also been produced, in which Tsotne Gamsakhurdia tells his brother Konstantine how the opposition could lose momentum after gathering 150,000 people outside Parliament on November 2.

As Tsotne Gamsakhurdia strongly denies the charges against him and refuses to plead guilty. Manana Archevadze-Gamsakhurdia, widow of the late President and mother of Tsotne, confirmed the arrest of her son on charges of conspiracy and high treason. Tsotne’s brother Konstantine Gamsakhurdia demanded that the President of Georgia immediately release him. The Freedom Party leader’s statement says that “The punishment institutions under the direction of President Saakashvili detained the son of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, on September 3,” and accuses Saakashvili of applying pressure on his opponents.

“Arresting Tsotne Gamsakhurdia could be the first of the willful abuses Saakashvili will resort to in order to deflect attention from his illegal activities. I ask international organizations to put pressure on Saakashvili and demand the immediate release of my brother from prison,” Konstantine Gamsakhurdia stressed, in a letter send from abroad.

The Conservative Party has also confirmed the arrest. According to their statement, Gamsakhurdia was detained immediately he returned to Tbilisi, at the Tbilisi International Airport and taken to the Constitutional Security Department headquarters. Party members claim that Gamsakhurdia’s lawyer was not allowed to visit him. The party says it has spoken with the Head of the Administration of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Shota Khizanishvili, who stressed that “Tsotne Gamsakhurdia had been wanted for a long period of time by the MIA”, but would not make any further comment on the matter.

Tsotne Gamsakhurdia works for as a political analyst. As Manana Archevadze-Gamsakhurdia stated, she does not know who will act as his lawyer. If subsequently found guilty, Tsotne Gamsakhurdia faces up to 20 years in prison.