MP Valery Gelbakhiani, the head of presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili’s campaign headquarters, has been declared an official suspect in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said on December 24.
“At this stage MP Gelbakhiani will be interrogated as a suspect and if the need to arrest him arises, we will make a request to Parliament,” Gvaramia said. Lawmakers enjoy immunity from prosecution and can only be stripped of this protection by fellow parliamentarians.
Gvaramia said that the investigation into “an attempt to forcefully overthrow the government” was launched on December 17, after Irakli Kodua, head of the Interior Ministry’s Special Operations Department (SOD), notified investigators that a former judge, Marina Gabunia, and Gelbakhiani had tried to bribe him in exchange for taking part in the alleged conspiracy.
With Kodua’s cooperation, Gvaramia said, investigators were able to covertly record two meetings between him and Gelbakhiani during which the latter tells the Interior Ministry official that the plan was “to thwart the election” and “to trigger mass unrest in Tbilisi and in the entire country.”
The video tape, aired by the Georgian television stations, shows Gelbakhiani telling Kodua that his task would be to arrest Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili during the planned unrest. Kodua then asks how he can be so sure that people would go out onto the streets on January 6 - an essential part of the plot. Gelbakhiani replies that “a lot of money will be spent.” “We will have 80,000 paid activists in our structures, which we are currently creating, so at least 200,000 people will go out onto the streets,” he adds.
Gelbakhiani also tells Kodua that the results of the election were less important than the creation of the impression of vote rigging, which, he says, is necessary to stir up unrest. “It will be a staged show,” he says.
He also says that he was in contact with “Gachechiladze’s team” – a reference to presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, who is backed by the nine-party opposition coalition.
A second meeting with Kodua, Gvaramia said, took place on December 21 after Gelbakhiani had arrived from London, where he had consulted with Badri Patarkatsishvili. He said that Kodua had personally spoken with Patarkatsishvili on the issue.
MP Gelbakhiani has confirmed that he met with Kodua, but he claimed that the tape was edited. He told Rustavi 2 TV by phone that his main goal was to have an ally within the Interior Ministry so as to prevent the break-up of possible protest rallies after the January 5 election.