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Seven men charged in relation to a plot to blow up a gas pipeline in Georgia were found guilty by Tbilisi City Court on 22 May.
The men were detained on 20 August 2016, with the State Security Service claiming to have prevented a terror attack in the country.
According to investigators, five of the men had planned to plant explosives at five locations along a gas pipeline carrying gas from Russia to Armenia, which passes through Georgia.
Four were found guilty of ‘conspiracy to carry out a terror attack’ and ‘purchasing and storing explosives’, and received sentences of between 12–14 years in prison. The fifth member of the group was sentenced to 7 years for ‘illegally purchasing firearms’.
A former member of the Patrol Police was sentenced to 2 years in prison for for ‘exceeding official powers’ in relation to the plot, but no more details were given. Another man was found guilty of ‘concealing a crime’ and jailed for 3 years.
According to the Security Service, the group planned to detonate bombs at several points along the pipeline, around 20 km away from Tbilisi near the village of Saguramo, in order to cause confusion and speculation about who could have been behind it.
Investigators claimed to have seized maps that indicated the exact locations where explosions were planned.
The authorities had hinted to a connection between the plotters and Ukraine — the Security Service said that one of men frequently travelled to Ukraine, but they had no evidence whether the group had been tasked by someone in Ukraine to carry out the attack.
Talk of a possible ‘Ukrainian connection’ began to surface in August, less than two months before Georgia’s parliamentary elections and as the case was underway. This was widely seen as being aimed at Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s former president and leader of the opposition United National Movement party, who resides in Ukraine.
‘The group was not related to the Islamic State or with any other terrorist groups’, Irakli Sesiashvili, Chairman of the Parliamentary Defence and Security Committee said.