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Vakhtang Maisaia: “I was punished because I did not confess what I had not committed”

26.07.2011

Madlena Macharashvili, tribuna.ge

Political scientist Vakhtang Maisaia was detained in May of 2009 under the charge of espionage. He confessed the crime during the preliminary investigation. However, he did not confess crime during the trial. The court passed 20-years imprisonment sentence against him. He is serving sentence in Rustavi #2 prison.

The theme of espionage once again became relevant in Georgia after the detention of photo reporters. The internet magazine tribuna.ge contacted Vakhtang Maisaia in the prison. We would like to let the readers know that the answers were given before the trial of the photo reporters was conducted. Since contacting respondent in a prison requires certain procedures, we did not try to add questions.

- Mr. Vakhtang, the case of detained photo reporters was followed by big resonance. Despite the testimonies of the detainees, the public does not trust the charges of the law-enforcement and continues to hold the solidarity actions. You, as a person detained under the charge of espionage, what do you think the public activity will change? What kind of influence will it have on these processes?

- Solidarity actions have a huge significance. The representatives of free media achieved a big success. I remember the comments made by the “first spy” Simon Kiladze given to the journalists – he said that if he was in my place, he would not confess and would fight till the end because it is very hard to live under this burden despite the fact that he is free. These words completely altered me. I would say the same to the photo reporters. They have a huge support and can boldly continue to fight.

- After the detention, during the preliminary investigation, you confessed crime to the law-enforcement. What was the reason – coercion?

- Unfortunately, the coercion was huge.

What kind of mechanisms did they use in order to obtain your confession?

- It was shocking when I got detained during the lectures and happened to sit in the MIA building. I could not understand what was going on. They were telling me some fairy tales as if my colleagues were detained in Ukraine and Slovakia under the charge of espionage and they named me as their agent.

Then someone named Spartak came to interrogate me. He stated that he was an agent of FSB and said that Russians wanted to liquidate me. It all seemed very absurd, absurd and contradictory. They forced me to cooperate with them stating that it would be beneficial for me. Then they started threatening me. They staged a suicide. They brought my wife in the MIA building and arrested her. The final threat broke me. I do not exclude that they put some psychotropic substances in the mineral water which they suggested me to drink so devotedly. I would like to tell you that even without these threats; it is very hard psychologically when they tell you that you have two choices: a confession and the conditional arrest as a result of plea-bargain agreement or 20-years imprisonment and hell in the prison. You are facing very hard choice…

- At the trial you declared you are innocent. Was there no more pressure against you?

- I was in complete informational vacuum. The lawyer in fact worked better than the prosecutor. Then another lawyer Natia Korkotadze told me that my family was not in danger and the threat was exaggerated. The main thing is that the espionage of my colleagues was fairy tale by the Counter-Intelligence and my cooperation with the investigation meant the arrest of innocent people based on my testimony.

This is such a dirty work that you should refuse to do it no matter what it is worth. The pressure was huge but I decided not to confess what I have not committed. I would like to emphasize that I have never confessed “espionage for benefit of Russia.” If you attentively hear my so-called “confessional testimony” I said there that I passed operative material to the intelligence service of Slovakia that meant that I was a “spy” of our ally country.

- Did they offer you a plea-bargain agreement in exchange of confession and except for paying relevant money what other “obligations” did you have if you gave consent?

- As I noted the confession would result in the plea-bargain agreement: a year and a half real sentence and then several months’ conditional arrest. I would be tried according to the article 314 of the Criminal Code because of cooperation with Slovakia special services. There was no talk about the financial fine since I was supposed to cooperate with the law-enforcement if I named other individuals. This would have been absurd accusations and would have proved the unprofessionalism of our Counter-Intelligence more.

- The law-enforcement departments name years of 2002 and 2004 as the start of espionage work of photo reports. They also thought that your activity was suspicious starting from about the same period. Why do you think so? Why are these years so interesting in terms of “starting espionage”?

- These years are part of PR. It emphasizes that Russian politics was implemented during Shevardnadze times and as soon as new pro-Western force government came in power in the form of Saakashvili and his team, Russia would lose its influence – information would not be provided to Russia directly. That is why it was necessary to take care of this on time and create a “grand espionage” network which would have ensured the information flow from Georgia.

At the same time Saakashvili always needed to prove the West that he and his time are endangered by Russia and he is the only pro-Western power and if he loses, the pro-Russian forces will definitely take over.
Saakashvili always blackmails the West and presents himself as an irreconcilable force for Russia. Since the Georgian government considers me “spy” of Russia I will tell you half-jokingly that they must have very wrong understanding about Russia’s Intelligence Service if they think that they were basing their work on me and on the photo reporters not to talk about “Kochoia.”

People are still punished under the charges of keeping weapons and drug use. However the theme of espionage has become a lot more popular lately. How would you explain it? What kind of tendency does it indicate on?

- Majority of political prisoners are tried under the offences of weapon and drug use. The objective studying of these cases by different organizations made it clear that they are falsified by the same handwriting. The international society started to have logical questions: how come every political prisoner is a drug user or criminal? That is why they needed to throw a bail to the west and part of our society who still believe in this government. We should not forget about the PR factor mentioned in the previous response.

There is an assumption expressed by the NGOs that the theme of state treason and espionage with Russia is more interesting for the government since the foreign NGOs do not show much interest in the cases of people arrested under this charge. What do you think about this issue?

- You are right. It is very hard to persuade the west that innocent people are arrested under the charge of espionage. So it is very hard to gain their support. This charge is the most immoral charge. Everybody runs away from it. However, this profession has become very popular in our funny situation.

- The court passed 20-years imprisonment sentence against you. Some lawyers think that it is a strict sentence even for the imposed charge. What will you say after serving three years? Why are you punished so strictly?

- As every political prisoner, I was punished because I did not confess what I had not committed. Our government does not like people free of will since we are the biggest enemies of this regime which resembles the Pol-Pot regime more and more.

- What would you suggest to the photo reporters detained under the charge of espionage?

- They have a big support. Their colleagues are acting heroic. I have a big hope that the truth will sooner or later triumph. We, the punished political prisoners are asking the society not to leave us alone and give us faith that we are not alone.  Our persistence would be stronger in this case.

What would you change if you could return to the past?

- I have a lot of time to think about this in the prison. I have often thought which situation is harder – to be a wind mill fighter and sit in the prison or be outside and be free. However, freedom does not mean to live outside of prison. You might be sitting in the prison and be free, and walk outside and not be able to live freely because of your principles.

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