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Kurtsikidze has requested plea bargain deal, advocate says

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, July 22
One of the photojournalists detained on espionage charges, European Pressphoto Agency’s Zurab Kurtsikidze offered a plea bargain deal, his advocate Shalva Shavgulidze said on Thursday. According to the lawyer, he was informed by Kurtsikidze’s other advocate, Nino Andriadze. The latter met Kurtsikidze in Tbilisi #8 jail. EPA’s photojournalist was questioned again on July 21, according to his lawyers.

“Zurab Kurtsikidze’s questioning is over. Nino Andriashvili told me that an agreement was reached on certain issues, including a plea bargain deal. Kurtsikidze agreed on plea bargain,” Shavgulidze noted, adding that he had no further details of the issue. Shavgulidze said that although EPA and Kurtsikidze’s family have hired him as Kurtsikidze’s lawyer, he was not let inside the jail to meet his client on July 21.

Later on Thursday, lawyer Andriadze confirmed the information on plea bargain deal. She said, her client “confessed” again during the repeated questioning. According to Andriashvili, an initiative about the plea bargain belongs to Kurtsikidze. “The response to his appeal will be available in a week,” Andriashvili said. She refused to give details of the questioning.

Meanwhile the lawyer informed reporters that Kurtsikidze refused Shavgulidze to be his lawyer. “Kurtsikidze thanked EPA and his family for hiring Shavgulidze, however he said that he does not want Shavgulidze to defend his interests and agreed that me and Mikheil Gongadze to continue defending his interests,” she noted.

Along with Kurtsikidze, the investigators repeatedly questioned the President’s personal photographer Irakli Gedenidze and the Foreign Ministry’s freelance photographer Giorgi Abdaladze, both accused of espionage for Russia as well. The decision to again question the detainees was made by the Main Prosecutor’s Office, the lawyer of Kurtsikidze, Mikheil Gongadze told reporters.

The announcement of Andriadze was followed by a verbal incident between an opposition activist Goga Khaindrava and Zurab Kurtsikidze’s advocates outside the jail. Khaindrava told the lawyers that they should not have signed Kurtsikidze’s confession statement, saying that the latter is innocent. Khaindrava suggested that the investigators have pressured him to write a confession statement and to request a plea agreement deal.

Georgian analysts have suggested that the authorities will strike a plea bargain deal with the detained photojournalists. According to Irakli Sesiashvili, this way the officials will try to “avoid” court hearings. “The authorities do not want court hearings, because the public will see during court sessions that there is no evidence in the case. Thus, the investigation will try to reach plea bargain deal with the detainees,” he noted. Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili pledged last week, that the public will get evidences on the case at the court hearings.

Meanwhile, the journalists which have been staging protests outside the Interior ministry building and the jail have said they will continue their protest. “It will continue for long because it does not seem that the truth is revealed,” Lasha Tugushi of the Rezonansi newspaper said. He was standing outside the jail with a group of fellow journalists, demanding declassifying the case of the photojournalists.