Koba Otanadze, accused of participating in Mukhrovani uprising who was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment was released a week ago. A retired colonel Koba Otanadze who was arrested for political reasons says that Saakashvili created an image of an enemy out of him and staged the uprising.
Mr. Grigalashvili, a prosecutor, would visit us in prison at nights insisting on admitting the guilt that we had not committed. We were said that if we admitted they would sentence us to a short term, and if not – would leave us there till the end of our lives. Some admitted, and they were sentenced to 3-4 years of imprisonment; I was sentenced to 29 years (had I admitted the guilt, they would have sentenced me to 10 years of imprisonment).
Koba, you were arrested on the basis of uprising against the state and attempt of cud ‘tat. What actually happened in Mukhrovani battalion?
Nothing, absolutely nothing. Disorder was in Georgia as a whole; it was transformed into a city of camps; I did not participate in anything but it was staged as it was. The provocation or the so called Mukhrovani uprising was preliminarily planned…then Government wanted to involve the army in dispersing the meetings as it happened in 2007 when Misha used the army against people. He wanted to do the same in May 2009. Gia Krialashvily was newly arrived from Ukraine and I went to see him. Levan Amiridze also dropped by and said that he, together with Gorgiashvili, was planning to make an announcement: they wanted to express their dissatisfaction in terms of then Government. After having done so, they were planning to resign. We said that somebody could blame us and accuse of something because real dangers already existed…
You mean that some preconditions that the Government would accuse Amiridze of something already existed?
Yes, they existed because they detained the Head of Amiridze’s staff and an employee and the information existed that they were planning to arrest him too. Gia and I took Amiridze to Mukhrovani that became known to the high officials of the Government and they staged what they staged.
Did the battalion of rangers have the order to disperse the meeting?
You may remember when people decided to block Gombori. The Battalion of rangers received a verbal order to disperse them. In addition, he wanted to hold a parade, you know how much Misha loves parades! The previous year, the battalion of rangers lost 26 soldiers in the August war – many lost their families and houses…they did not want to participate in the parade…
What happened next?
They made a verbal order to liquidate us. We knew this and were planning to leave the country. We did not know where to go; the only thing we wanted was to go away. Almost all our relatives were arrested – my brother was arrested; they broke his hand and imprisoned him accusing of resisting the police; my cousins were arrested, even a woman with an infant…almost all my relatives were arrested.
How did the special unit find out that you were planning to leave the country?
We received massages that a driver would pick us up. It turned out that that the they found out our location through the massages. We were waiting for the car in Gldani district, Mamkoda forest. A van arrived; I still do not know who the driver was. The court will find it out. There were some sacks in the van. The driver said that he was carrying onions and potato with those sacks. Later we found out that three staff members of the Constitutional Security Department were covered by the sacks. He started the engine; after five minutes the patrol cars blocked the road; actually, everything had been planned; those staff members also raised their heads and shot us in the van…Gia Krialashvili died on the spot, I caught nine bullets and was wounded seriously; Amiridze had seven bullets… it was a liquidation; the special units did not even try to detain us.
What happened then? Do you remember?
First, they were planning to take me to the morgue, but when I moved and they understood that I was alive they threw me out of the van and shot again in hands and legs.
Not to run away?
How could I run? I could not stand on my feet. They wanted to kill us but did not dare because there were a lot of people there by the time, local population. Seriously wounded, we were taken to Gudushauri hospital where we were operated on. I would like to thank the doctors of the hospital. We would not have survived, had we been taken to the prison hospital.
Was any of high rank officials present there?
When I was shot, Vano Merabishvili, Gigi Ugulava and Givi Targamadze were there. Bokeria arrived at the hospital, I saw him.
What happened at hospital? Based on the information spread, you were asked to sign the paper of confession.
I still was unconscious in hospital; later, in the prison hospital they brought a piece of paper printed in different letters: big, medium and small. Read it and asked to sign the document of confession.
What did you have to confess?
That we were planning state plot and upraise. They wanted to air it on TV.
That means that you were under pressure being in hospital?
Yeas. They threatened saying that if I did not sign they would kill me as people already knew that I was seriously wounded.
You think, they did not dare to kill you?
They dared everything but God saved me. The chances to survive were minimal. That’s why they stopped – they thought I would die, but I stayed alive…Prosecutor Grigalashvili would visit us at night demanding from us to confess what we had not committed. There were different kinds of pressures including physical and psychological.
At the court session, there were talks that you were the agent of Russian special agencies and that the upraise was funded by Russia. The money was to be brought by a plane.
That is a fairy tale: a place flying and bringing money, why on earth are bank transactions? This is an absurd and it was staged; everybody guessed what it was. Gvaladze signed such confession and he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment and then was pardoned. Gia Gvaladze was set up by four staff members of the Constitutional Security Department and he was forced to say that he was talking to me about the upraise. Gvaladze talked to me only on the phone. They did not have any telephone recordings and proof. I did not have any weapon. Even if I had, three people were accused of upraise; can three people organize an upraise? They found the weapon and ammunition that they had put there, in somebody’s room. Who should I shoot? Why did I need that weapon?
Did you have any weapon when you were planning to leave Georgia?
No, we did not need weapon. Who should we shoot?
Why did not you find somebody reliable to leave the country?
We were overtired; we had spent four weeks in the forest and we could not imagine that they would do such things.
Was there something said about pardoning? The President stated that he offered to pardon you and you rejected his proposal, saying that Ivanishvili would come and he would release you…
Yes, talks about pardoning took place, but I rejected. I did not want their pardoning. They killed my friend and look what they did to me. Gia Krialashvili was absolutely clear. Misha has made a lot of mistakes. I knew that time would come and they would go…I knew that God would help me and release. I would like to thank Bidzina Ivanishvili for getting the country rid of Saakashvili. If not Ivanishvili, I would have sat there for a long time. If he does not do anything more, that will be sufficient for Ivanishvili.
During the court hearings you applied the right to stay silent. Why?
What was the point is speaking? I knew they would sentence me to 30 years as everything was planned. The court was a performance. They just could not finish it in a day and so prolonged the process.
Why did Saakashvili’s Government need to stage Mukhrovani upraise?
First of all, to scare the army. 200 officers were sacked from the army – those who, in their opinion, were not loyal to them. Actually, many people were fired. Saakashvili would benefit from this upraise; people did not believe but that’s how they did and simulated everything. Simulated upraise, simulated news, etc. He made us live in simulated environment for nine years.
Can you tell us a few words about your life in prison?
I was in closed-type of facility because the Government considered me to be dangerous criminal. There were others serving their terms, imprisoned due to political reasons. Those people have not been recognized as political prisoners. There are very many illegal prisoners in the closed zone. 80% of about 1500 prisoners serve their term but have not done anything. Even more, the sentence was doubled for many of them.
The sentence is doubled when money is not brought. That was the approach: to arrest as many people as possible. Saakashvili’s Government has been criminal since the very first day of coming into power. Was not it corruption when they were taking money from other people? First they would arrest people, take money and then release. There is no family in Georgia without a prisoner. I think even in 1937 it was not that serious. About a million and a half of people fed from Georgia. He created the terror in the country that no invader has ever done – even Jalal ad Din or Murvan the Deaf.
What can you say about Gia Krialashvili?
I think his killers will be revealed and punished. Hundreds of people attended the special operation conducted against us and everything will become clear. At least, somebody will dare and say the truth.