Guilty verdicts for ex-officials in secret recordings case

Tbilisi City Court declared one of the defendants not guilty. Photo from, 18 Mar 2014 - 17:47, Tbilisi,Georgia

Eleven ex-officials have been found guilty of illegally filming and hiding a secret cache of recordings among weapons storage, which were found in Western Georgia in June last year.

In Tbilisi City Court today, the Crown declared its verdict for 10 defendants who were charged with illegal surveillance.

The charges stem from a discovery of secret recordings of the private lives of Georgian officials and citizens. Georgia’s Interior Ministry discovered the footage had been illegally recorded and obtained over several years through illegal surveillance.

Today's Court decision saw 9 out of 12 defendants, who were all former Interior Ministry high officials, found guilty. The one person who was declared not guilty and cleared of charges against him was the ex-head of Zugdidi police Ruslan Shamakhia.

Plea agreement was signed earlier with the two defendants, Marlen Khivitia and Gocha Shonia.

Four men were sentenced to nine years imprisonment. They were: former head of the Military police Megis Kardava, former deputy head of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional police Kokhta Kodua, former senior investigator of the Military Police Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Department Davit Chaginava and ex-Interior Ministry employee Koba Todua.

In addition ex-Interior Ministry official Temur Ubiria, who accusers claim he was seen sexually abusing people in secret video recordings, was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail.

Ex-employees of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional police Guram Chitanava and Paata Kiria and former-employee of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Military police Giorgi Bulia were sentenced to six year imprisonment for their role in illegally secretly recording citizens.

Irakli Akhalaia, a former employee of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Military police, was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.

Among the accused officials, Kardava, Kodua and Chaginava are currently in hiding.

Last year Georgia’s Interior Ministry discovered the secret recordings. It claimed more than 635 CDs containing more than 750 hours of secret video recordings had been illegally obtained.

Some of the recordings were graphic and featured sexual relations including homosexual activity and out-of-marriage-sex filmed from hotel rooms and other locations.

The Ministry destroyed a selection of the secret videos while the rest was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.

The files that were not destroyed included recordings of private conversations by celebrities, politicians and journalists, as well as videos showing torture of detainees made by the Interior Ministry, mainly under the rule of former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Last month Georgian civil society members said the Government still had the ability to conduct illegal surveillance on Georgian citizens but did not know if the Government used it in practice.

They demanded to create rules to ensure proper judicial oversight over Government surveillance practices.