Georgian court jails military mutineers

More than a dozen soldiers and civilians were given lengthy jail terms in Georgia on Monday for involvement in a military rebellion.

Georgian court jails military mutineers

More than a dozen soldiers and civilians were given lengthy jail terms in Georgia on Monday for involvement in a military rebellion during street protests last year against President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The brief, bloodless mutiny at the Mukhrovani tank base near the capital Tbilisi on May 5, 2009 underscored concern over the loyalty of the Georgian armed forces, coming nine months after they were routed in a five-day war with Russia.

Georgian officials alleged the mutiny was part of an attempted coup and Saakashvili said the plotters had links with Moscow, an accusation Russia described as "insane".

Western diplomats at the time expressed doubt over the scale of the incident, and the U.S. Pentagon said it appeared to be "fairly isolated".

The key accused -- retired army colonel Koba Otanadze, Rangers commander Levan Amiridze and Mukhrovani tank commander Shota Gorgiashvili -- were jailed for 29, 28 and 19 years for rebellion with the aim of overthrowing the government.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal. "There is no evidence that could justify such a ruling," lawyer Vakhtang Talakvadze told reporters.

More than a dozen others were jailed for between two and 15 years. Retired general Koba Kobaladze was cleared on the main charges and freed to cheers from the courtroom.

Events disputed

What precisely happened at the base of 500 soldiers is disputed. Analysts said it appeared to reflect disquiet among some officers over the handling of the war, in which Russia crushed a Georgian assault on the pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Three hours after news broke of an uprising, Saakashvili followed tanks and armoured personnel carriers into the base and authorities announced the rebellion was over.

It overshadowed the start of NATO military exercises in the former Soviet republic, condemned by Russia as "muscle-flexing".

Prosecutors said the plotters had announced they were refusing orders and planned to seize control of strategic sites in the capital, which was in the grip of weeks of opposition street protests aimed at unseating Saakashvili.

Addressing the court last week, Amiridze, whose Rangers battalion was heavily involved in the August 2008 war, denied planning to overthrow the government.

"Yes I was dissatisfied, but not with the authorities," Georgian news website Civil.ge quoted him as saying. "I was dissatisfied with the military command and I expressed my dissatisfaction in conversations with commanders."



Reuters

Last Mod: 11 Ocak 2010, 14:15
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