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The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office has released a taped conversation allegedly of former senior official Mirza Subeliani in which he contradicts earlier claims of torture and abuse in Georgian law enforcement. Critics have pointed to inconsistencies in the new tape and there has been widespread speculation it was staged.
Subeliani is currently being charged with failing to report a crime over the Khorava street murders investigation.
In previous recordings aired on Sunday by opposition leaning TV channel Rustavi 2, a man identified as Subeliani talked of engaging in illegal activities including kidnap and torture on the orders of senior current and former political figures and the law enforcement agencies.
Subeliani mentioned several convictions of former officials from the United National Movement Party (UNM) he helped secure while at the Prosecutor’s office, using illegal means.
Subeliani allegedly claimed to have ‘terabytes’ of incriminating recordings, which if made public, would trigger public protests and the downfall of the Georgian Dream government.
On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office made public a tape of another conversation ‘between Mirza Subeliani and Viktor Japaridze’ the same two men as in the originals.
‘I'll undermine you with lies’, a man identified as Subeliani warns Japaridze.
Subeliani allegedly says that members of the UNM and Rustavi 2 director Nika Gvaramia had offered him money and a speedy release from prison in exchange for falsely accusing the government of crimes.
The Prosecutor’s Office claimed that although the recording still ‘needed forensic analysis’, it ‘could suggest’ Subeliani threatened to come up with false allegations against the authorities to leverage a softer sentence.
Neither the Prosecutor’s Office or other government officials have offered an explanation of why Japaridze, a ruling party MP, was speaking to Subeliani about these issues.
The Prosecutor’s Office made clear that the recording they released was made in July, while the one aired by Rustavi 2 was recorded in October.
In the latest tapes released by the Prosecutor’s Office, the two men appear to speak in a stilted, and at times strained manner.
Senior members of the UNM claimed the new tapes were staged by the Prosecutor’s Office in order to counter claims of illegality made in the originals.
On Monday, the day before the the Prosecutor’s Office released the latest tapes, Rustavi 2 director Nika Gvaramia warned the public that he had received information the authorities had ‘delivered’ Japaridze to Subeliani’s detention centre, where they staged a new conversation.
Roman Gotsiridze, an MP from the UNM, told OC Media ‘the government tried to strike first, but got into a larger problem’.
Gotsiridze said he expects further recordings to emerge, but that this will only reduce the ‘sensational effect’ of revelations, while the government would still face the same problem — ‘what we are witnessing is a case of a serious crime’.
The two sets of tapes cover almost exactly the same topics, despite the Prosecutor’s Office claiming they were recorded months apart.
The tapes conflict with each other, as in the tapes released by Prosecutor’s Office, Subeliani allegedly claims that he would lie about having ‘kompromat’ against the government, to which Japaridze acts as if he knows nothing about this.
In tapes released by Rustavi 2 almost three months later, Japaridze brings up the issue of the ‘kompromat’, assuring Subeliani that others are aware it is secure in Europe.
In the Rustavi 2 tapes Subeliani confidently speaks about owning ‘terabytes’ of ‘kompromat’ which he says he could use in order to ‘fuck over the country’ while in the prosecutor's Office tapes he says he doesn’t but could lie about it.
After the Prosecutor’s Office released the new tapes, Mamuka Mdinaradze, the head of the Georgian Dream parliamentary group, accused the UNM of publishing the Subeliani tapes on Rustavi 2, but ‘only the part which would create negativity in society’.
Parliamentary Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze criticised Rustavi 2 for ‘being engaged in brainwashing’ in ‘best practices similar to Russian propaganda’. He called both the airing of the Subeliani tapes and the scandal Omega Tapes scandal ‘staged’ by the TV company, and said they ‘will fail’.
The tapes aired by Rustavi 2 on Sunday suggested that on the background of public protest over prosecution’s failure to identify one of the killers in the Khorava Street murders, Subeliani had agreed to go to jail for a short period.
The tapes appear to show he had become unhappy afterwards with the deal, threatening to bring down the government and ‘reminding’ Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia about the terms of their ‘agreement’ with him.
Subeliani appears to implicate former chief prosecutors, former Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, and Refugee Minister Sozar Subari.
Members of Georgian Dream were quick to dismiss the claim as those of a man ‘under stress’.
In the latest tape presented by the Prosecutor’s Office, Subeliani appears to complain about the stressfulness of being in detention.
The release of recording was immediately followed by Subeliani’s lawyer saying he wouldn’t hide from the public and that his client tried to commit suicide the previous day.
The Special Penitentiary Service also announced soon after that ‘psychologists and psychiatrists provided consultations’ to Subeliani after he tried to kill himself the previous day.