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The Case of Vakhtang Maisaia and the List of Spies [Video]

15.09.2009

Nona Salaghaia

Vakhtang Maisaia, a political expert suspected of participating in the Mukhrovani mutiny, now is in Tbilisi Prison # 8 . He gave sensational information to human rights defenders and to his attorneys. Maisaia claims that law enforcers unsuccessfully tried to force him to testify against famous politicians and high ranking authorities during unwarranted interrogations. Vakhtang Maisaia sent a notebook to our investigating group in which are listed the names of the people whom the law enforcers demanded him to name. There are more than 20 names on the list. Many of them are  government officers and some are  famous experts on political and military issues. Law enforcers want Maisaia to say that these people have committed high treason.


Here are the names of these people:


Aleksandre (Kakha) Lomaia, the Georgian ambassador to the UN;
Gela Bezhuashvili, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia;
Giorgi Manjgaladze, a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Levan Geradze, a representative of the Abkhazian legitimate government;
Irakli Toronjadze, a Deputy Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs;
Davit Nairashvili, a General of a brigade within the National Guard;
Giorgi Gvalia, a member of the Security Council;
Tornike Turmanidze, an associate professor in Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University;
Nikoloz Rtveliashvili, a director of a department within the Ministry of Defense;
Nodar Kharshiladze, a director of a department within the Ministry of Defense;
Tornike Sharashenidze, an expert on political and military issues;
Levan Tsutskiridze, a former rector of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) and an expert on military and political issues; and
Zviad Mikhanashvili, Tornike Parulava, Tato Janashia, Davit Nardaia, Kote Elizbarashvili, Kakha Chikovani, Nikoloz Khundzagishvili, Omar Bedoidze, Sergo Abashidze.
Beka Aladashvili, Kakha and Lasha Dzebisashvili – Ministry of Defense
Zurab Kipiani, Gela Kvashalava, Zviad Chkhaidze, Andro Gotsiridze, Irakli Batkuashvili, Beso Oboladze  

The rest are the representatives of  international missions accredited in Georgia:
Robert Kenety, deputy head of the US mission to Georgia;
Ian Lent and Rob Fuler, diplomats of the mission of Great Britain;
Adina and Ibrahim, members of the OSCE mission; and
Bodgan Udriste, a member of the OSCE mission.
Michael Simson – British diplomat, John Anton – US embassy

Maisaia refused to testify against these people. He told the law enforcers that he did not know anything about them spying. He said he could not have known anything because he had never been involved in espionage.  Maisaia also claims that the deputy head of the counter-intelligence department told him if he (Maisaia) does not testify against the abovementioned people he will be sentenced to 20 years inprison. Maisaia’s case is in the Collegium of Criminal Cases of the Tbilisi City Court. The first court hearing will be held in September.

The case materials on Maisaia’s alleged espionage were top secret during a preliminary investigation. This means that only the investigator, the prosecutor and the defense attorney had access to the case materials. None of them had the right to publicize their contents.  The court hearings in Maisaia’s case will be top secrect. According to Georgian legislation, only some case materials can be declared top secret and only by a judge if he/she considers that the decision complies with the interests of the investigation. The judge’s decision on this must be well grounded. The law enforcers did not consider it to be necessary to explain why the law was infringed in Maisaia’s case (the whole case was top secret). This confirms the suspicion of the society that the government has an interest in Maisaia’s case. In our country where scandalous violations would occur in public trials, nobody can guarantee the fairness of closed trials, especially if we take into account that law enforcers and even high ranking government officials have violated national and international laws and human rights standards against Maisaia.

The Last Lecture

On May 5, 2009, the day of the alleged mutiny, in a University building, the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrested Vakhtang Maisaia, a doctor of philosophy in political science, a military expert and a professor at the University of Georgia.The same day TV companies publicized video footage with Maisaia’s confession to high treason and espionage against Georgia. This was a violation of human rights norms and the law on the presumption of innocense. No one knows who decided that it was necessary to arrest Maisaia in the University in front of students and colleagues. Why did not the law enforcers arrest him at home before he went to the University? Was the act legal or moral? According to Georgian legislation a person can be arrested in a public place or at work only if it is extremely necessary. It is inappropriate to arrest a person in a public place or at work  because his dignity might be hurt. How can the moral damage be compensated if Maisaia turns out to be innocent in the end? Can the court compensate him? What about regaining the respect of his students? Where is the guarantee that the court verdict will be more lawful than the act of the police when it arrested Maisaia?

The President is above the Law

The President of Georgia accused Maisaia of high treason soon after he was arrested. “The investigation is under way but it has already been established and he (Maisaia) also has confessed that every two hours he was transferringgto the enemy(during the August war) information about the movement of Georgian armed forces so that the enemy could easily find our military units and bomb them… What moral principles a person can have to work for the enemy of his own country and to contribute to the destruction of our army and bombing our capital. He did everything for money.”
The President of Georgia placed himself above the law and justice with this statement. The President neglected the law on the presumption of innocence which says that no one has the right to declare a person guilty other than a court. What did the President mean when he said that “the investigation is in process but it has already been established.” He probably intended to influence justice. Unfortunately, this destroys the countries image and the image of the President of Georgia.

Law for One and not for all 

Maisaia’s case puts the principle of the universality of law under question. According to the Georgian Law on State Secrets, the information about “strategic and operative movements of armed forces, their mobilization, their placement on high alert and usage of mobilization resources” is secret. The court has to determine whether Maisaia was transmitting this information in his reports or not. However, until then the prosecutor’s office must explain: why the prosecutor’s office decided that only Maisaia’s reports were suspicious while almost all media outlets were publicizing information about “strategic and operative movements of armed forces, their mobilization” and so on during military activities in Tskhinvali? For instance, TV Company Rustavi 2 publicized the names of the places where reservists were being mobilized on August 8.
“Then Russians bombed these places and people died there. The government officers were stating publicly where, how and when were the reservists mobilized. This is a violation of law as well. Does not the release of this information threaten the security of the country? Who was held accountable for this?” wonders Temur Chachanidze. He thinks that Georgian military and political experts started thinking about many issues after the application of selective justice towards Maisaia.

Reports – Evidence against Maisaia or against Law enforcers?

The suspect Maisaia was transported to one of the departments of the MIA. He was  interrogated there till 5 a.m. Manana Chikovani and Jemal Akhobadze, the attorneys for Maisaia, attended the interrogation. Ms. Manana Maisaia said that the law enforcers started discussing Maisaia’s reports when the attorneys were not present. This is against the law and makes the integrity of the reports suspicious. The suspect claims that he saw his reports lying on the table when he entered the room {the reports were kept in Maisaia’s computer, on CDs and on flash cards. They were confiscated during the search of Maisaia’s house. The reports Maisaia saw on the table were on paper. This means that the police unsealed the confiscated items and printed out the documents. This raises the suspicion that the integrity of documents was violated.}Can a court consider this evidence reliable after this? The answer will be given in hearings in September.

The overall number of reports is 13. All of them are considered to involve secret information. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs published three of them on its web site. According to the Ministry, Maisaia sent these reports to the enemy during the August war.
The suspect confirms that he wrote the reports but claims that some paragraphs were added by others. If the reports had been unsealed in the presence of Maisaia’s attorneys and witnesses, it would not have been difficult for the law enforcers to reject the allegation that they had inserted parts in the reports but in this situation it will be very difficult to prove it. It is noteworthy, that the law enforcers deleted the original reports from Maisaia’s e-post. Why? If the original and a copy of the reports had been compared it would have clarified many things! Who did not want that?

No Secret Information in the Reports

Report #81-10-08 – This is the number of one of Maisaia’s  reports that was published on MIA’s web site.
“Massive fire rocket systems such as LAR- 160 which was rather effectively used during the war in Georgia. In particular, the Russian military column (about 500 tanks and armored vehicles) that was moving to Tskhinvali through the Roki tunnel were completely destroyed by Georgian artillery...”
Contradictory fact I: This report is dated October 9. This piece of information could not have been of value for Russian secret services by that time because the war had been over for 2 months.
Ridiculous contradiction::Kakha Katsitadze, an expert, considers that the report published on the web site of the MIA does not say anything interesting: “According to Russian instructions the distance between each tank must be 20 meters. A tank itself is rather big. The tanks would have  stretched on for 20 kilometers. This is impossible in the  territory considered. The Russians would have had more exact information concerning what survived the bombing. Does anyone believe that we could have destroyed 500 tanks? It would have been ridiculous if Maisaia had sent such report.  

Testimony Read from a Monitor

“They turned on a video camera. They put a monitor in front of me and ordered me to read the text from the monitor word for word. They had not presented any particular evidence against me. An investigator told me that the people with whom I had been cooperating for many years turned out to be Russian spies and the law enforcers of their countries had arrested them. The investigator was talking about Elene Iatsunska, a Ukrainian political expert and Ioseb Dolezhal from the Slovak Republic. It was Iatsunska who introduced me to Ioseb Dolezhal. He is an employee of a firm Novartis. I have met him at conferences many times. He represented the firm. This firm studies the political situation in the Caucasus for its commercial interests. He cooperated in Georgia with me and with Iatsunska - in the Ukraine.”
Vakhtang Maisaia claimed that the investigator told him that the police had operative information that Russian special services wanted to kill him (Maisaia). The investigator promised Maisaia that if he cooperated with the investigation and said what the law enforcers wanted him to say, they would release Butikashvili and Oboladze who had been arrested based on the first testimony of Maisaia.
Psychological analysis of Maisaia’s testimony proves what Maisaia said above. Psychologists who made the analysis preferred to remain unknown. Here are their comments: “The video footage which was broadcast by TV companies proves that the suspect (Maisaia) was reading a text. He often stutters while pronouncing a new word. Then he repeats it. He looks at one place, not into the camera.”

Charge

Maisaia faces serious charges of high treason and spying. To be more precise: cooperation with special services of a foreign country; obtaining and sending state secret information using codes. In particular, Maisaia is accused of sending “information about military, political and economic circumstances in Georgia and changes in the government, also information about the armament and military equipment being purchased by Georgia. In August 2008, during the Georgian-Russian war he was giving information about the amount and movement of Georgian military units and military equipment.” 

The law enforcers allege that Maisaia had access to secret materials because he used to work in the Georgian mission in NATO and still has contacts with high-ranking Georgian military officials. In 2004-2008 Maisaia worked as an  advisor in the diplomatic mission of Georgia to NATO. At the beginning of 2008 he came back to Georgia and started  scholarly work.
“The law enforcers told me that they started surveillance of me at the end of January 2008 when I came back from Brussels,” said Maisaia to his attorneys.
If the law enforcers knew about Maisaia’s espionage in January 2008 why did they not  arrest him at that time? Why did not the law enforcers stop him before having committed the crime? Who did not stop the activities of foreign special services? Who did not expose on time the connection between Maisaia and the enemy of the country?

Mysterious “Novartis” and Ioseb Dolezhal

According to Vakhtang Maisaia, he met Eleonora Iatsunska, a Ukrainian political expert and a professor at Nikolayev State University, during one of his visits in Budapest. At the time, Iatsunska was the political analyst of the pharmaceutical company Novartis.  She contacted Vakhtang Maisaia with Ioseb (Dodo) Dolezhal, a representative of the company in Slovakia. Iatsunska and Dolezhal had first met in Munich in 2003. Later Ioseb introduced Maisaia to Ian, the Director of the Novartis marketing campaign in Eastern Europe. At first Maisaia was making analytic reports; then he was sending mere operative information.
Our investigating group decided to find out whether Maisaia was telling the truth. We contacted both the Ukrainian political expert and Maisaia’s Slovak colleague. Neither Iatsunska nor Dolezhal had been arrested.

Elene Iatsunska confirmed that she introduced Maisaia and Dolezhal to each other. She also confirmed that the pharmaceutical company had a department that studied the economic-political situation in the countries where the company had branches. It is necessary for the development of their business to have information about the sustainability of the political and economic situation in these countries. Therefore, they order analytic articles from political experts from these countries. Iatsunska was sending this kind of article about Ukraine to Novartis. Iatsunska told us that she and Dolezhal stopped cooperating last year because Dolezhal did not pay her honorarium.

Our investigating group reached Dolezhal as well. He refused to give us an interview. However, he spoke on the telephone with Elene Maisaia, Vakhtang Maisaia’s wife, and told her that two weeks previously he had been arrested based on Vakhtang Maisaia’s testimony and that he had been interrogated for four days. Slovak law enforcers told him that Maisaia turned out to be a Russian spy and Dolezhal was suspected of spying for Russia based on Maisaia’s testimony. Dolezhal denied the allegation. He told Maisaia’s wife that he had problems at work due to Maisaia’s testimony and refused to answer any other questions. He said, “If I cooperate with me they will beat me again. Do you know how ruthlessly they beat me? I know nothing. During the previous year Vakhtang was cooperating with Ian, the head of the marketing campaign. Therefore, I did not read his letters… I was dismissed; Ian does not want to have anything to do with me. I call him but he does not answer my phone calls.  You have to understand me. I have very serious problems because of this. I cannot do anything in any other way. I will go to the police tomorrow and inform them that you called me from Georgia because I have been strictly warned that if I receive any new piece of information, I have to inform them.”

We contacted the Novartis administration. They denied that Dolezhal and Ian cooperate with the company and also they denied that they collect economic-political information. And this completes a secret circle: who is lying? Maisaia, Dolezhal, Iatsunska or the Novartis company?  If the first three persons are lying why were their governments loyal to Dolezhal and Iatsunska? Why did the law enforcers lie to Maisaia that Dolezhal and Iatsunska were arrested? Why is it that when we call Dolezhal a representative of Novartis Company responds if he is not and never has been an employee of the company?

Gaps in the Investigation and Problems of the Defense

In his “confession testimony” which was released by law enforcers illegally (they violated the law on the presumption of innocense long before the President did because they circulated the idea in the society about the guilt of Maisaia by releasing his testimony on TV.) Maisaia speaks about the cooperation with other countries and also about providing them with information. The confession of sharing the information does not mean that he confessed to a  crime because if the information is not a state secret it can be shared and sharing it is not a crime.
Confession of crime does not mean that Maisaia is guilty. According to Georgian legislation mere confession of a crime by a suspect does not imply that he is guilty. Part 4 of Article 115 of Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia highlights that “confession of a crime by a suspect shall not be considered as a ground for charges against him or a verdict of guilty if the crimes is not proven by  other evidence.”  What other evidence does the investigation have against Maisaia except for his own confession testimony and his 13 reports that are included into his case? We have  information that the investigation does not have other evidence.
There are several suspicious circumstances that would be difficult to explain and use for the benefit of the suspect: Maisaia was sending information and analytic articles to the pharmaceutical company with a small code. Maisaia claims that he was doing so because Novartis wanted him to do so in order to avoid rival companies getting the information and in order to protect commercial secrecy. Attorney Natia Korkotadze claims that it is code ELPI. Everyone can  download this code from the Internet. This was not the code that was particularly created for Maisaia as claimed by the law enforcers. This is a special code for zipping the files,” said the attorney.
Experts explain that normally pharmaceutical companies do not use codes because they do not look for secret information (presumed reason for using codes) and do not compete in speed (another presumed reason for using codes).

In addition, it is necessary to find out why Novartis denies cooperation with Dolezhal, Iatsunska and Maisaia; why Bratislava University denies the allegation of Maisaia that Novartis was paying for Maisaia’s tuition at the University (Bratislava University wrote to our investigating group that Vakhtang Maisaia was paying for his education at the University). 

The defense of Maisaia will have to tackle not only  the problems that stem from the complexity of the case but also  the artificially created problems. For example,, the attorney for Maisaia is not allowed to make copies of the case materials. Natia Korkotadze, another attorney for Vakhtang Maisaia who was hired by the family of Vakhtang Maisaia had been trying to obtain case materials for 3 weeks. In the end she managed to receive the right to study the materials but so far she is not allowed to make copies. “I cannot give the disputed reports to Maisaia and therefore, I do not know what are Maisaia’s answers concerning these reports. I am a lawyer and not a military expert and therefore, I cannot identify whether these reports contain state secret information . I am not allowed to give these materials to military experts and obtain comments from them,” said Natia Korkotadze.   

Russian “Agent” Asks for Shelter in Baku during the August War

Even if it is proven that Vakhtang Maisaia was cooperating with a foreign country it still needs clarification whether this country was Russia . Law-enforcers and the Georgian President were quick to declare Vakhtang Maisaia a Russian spy before a court rendered a verdict . Our investigation group has several arguments against Maisaia’s alleged espionage:  
Maisaia, who allegedly cooperated with the enemy (Russia) and helped them to capture Tbilisi, on August 9wrote a letter to his friend Jangir Arazli in Baku which contradicts the charges  against Maisaia:” The situation is much tensed. Russia may bomb and capture Tbilisi. Jangir, I might need a shelter in the near future. Russians consider me as an enemy.  If they invade into Tbilisi, they will shoot because I know that my name is in their “black list.”(This is an extract from Maisaia’s e-mail which we obtained with Maisaia’s permission).

Maisaia sent a diary to our investigating group through the representatives of the Public Defender. This is how he describes one day in custody in his diary: “They came into my cell to question me at night. Usually they carry out unofficial interrogations at night. They introduced a Russian speaking man to me and told me that he was an officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The man asked me about my hostile attitude towards Russia. He asked me about the source from which I obtained the information  about the military armament of Russia, namely, how I was informed about the disposition of the Russian troops at the Georgian border before the August war.”  
It is interesting how and why a Russian officer managed to enter the building of a Georgian penal institution. Who is working for Russia? Vakhtang Maisaia or someone else?
 
Surveillance

Several months before the arrest, two men visited Maisaia at home. They presented themselves as the technical staff of the internet provider company United Telecom. They started checking his modem claiming that there were some problems with the internet connection. One of them told Maisaia that they would have to take the modem to their office and check it there. Maisaia took him to the office at Nutsubidze Street by his car. Another one stayed at Maisaia’s house and continued “checking” the computer. The management of the United Telecom of Georgia told our journalists that the company visits their clients in their houses in case of internet connection problems only when the clients apply for it. They explained that Maisaia did not apply for service. Therefore, they did not send any technical staff to his house. Then who visited Maisaia as the representatives of the company? We think that the management of the internet provider also should be  interested to establish the identity of the people who visited Maisaia in the name of their company. Otherwise, their image might be affected.  Did they have permission from the company to use its name ? In any case, the law was infringed against Maisaia. Even when secret surveillance and tapping is permitted by a court, it is forbidden deceptively to enter the flat of the person subject to the surveillance  to conduct surveillance procedures.  

Assault and Threat of Elimination

Vakhtang Maisaia first started talking about law enforcers oppressing him when his family hired a new lawyer for Maisaia - Natia Korkotadze. The lawyer encouraged him by saying that he was not alone. She also informed Maisaia about a protest action which was held in front of his prison with the demand to release political prisoners, including him. This influenced Maisaia positively and,as the lawyer claims, now he has a hope that the truth will be discovered. 
Maisaia claims that he was often visited by investigators in his cell, especially at night. These visits were not attended by Maisaia’s lawyer, of course. He was taken to a building where the prison administration is situated. He was interrogated there illegally. He was asked questions that were insulting for him. Maisaia wrote to his lawyer about this kind of interrogations. . Such writing is called “inquiry protocol.” Here is an extract from the protocol on the developments on July 9: “Otar (deputy head of the Counter-Surveillance Department) told me that I was behaving very badly because I refused to cooperate with the law enforcers and wrote some statements which would be very bad for me. He meant that a 20-year- imprisonment was prescribed for me and it would be doubtful I would live 20 more years.  He reminded me of the conditions in which I was in an isolation cell. He told me to recall who ordered to put me in the cell. He said this would happen (placement in an isolation cell) and the conditions would be even worse and I would wish to die to avoid being there.” The night interrogations were attended by operative officers of the Counter- intelligence Department of the MIA together with the investigator. Zaza Mchedlishvili, co-occupant of the cell  of Vakhtang Maisaia, confirmed in written that Maisaia was taken for interrogation at night.

From the story of the Accused on Espionage

Vakhtang Maisaia said that he was forced to admit the crime because the law enforcers oppressed him psychologically and threatened that he would be assaulted if he did not admit the crime. Usually, the allegation that representatives of state bodies oppressed a suspect to obtain confession is not proven. We contacted a former prisoner who was sentenced for espionage and asked him to recall what happened to him from his arrest to his trial in terms of oppression from the law enforcers. His story is very similar to the story of Maisaia. 
This person did not want to make his name public. He was accused about 4 years ago of cooperating with other countries and providing them with secret information. He was detained in public in the presence of video cameras. The investigation failed to find any proofs against him but he was forced to” plead guilty”. He was released after having reached a certain agreement with the investigation. He was the 1st “spy” who was detained after the Rose Revolution: “I knew what kind of a country I was living in and I knew it would be difficult to prove that I was innocent. However, I had some hopes. In the end I proved to them that I was innocent but unfortunately, officially I had to confess a crime I had not commited.  They show you during the detention that if you do not confess the crime the government will destroy you. They bargain openly, manipulating with your family and your dignity. These are the issues which force you to compromise. Vakhtang is in a slightly better situation than I was. He has the sympathy of the society. Imagine how difficult it is when you do not feel any sympathy from the society on top of everything else. I was detained a year and a half after the Rose Revolution and the government’s rating was rather high; therefore, the society was not on my side. It was the biggest punishment for me. I would like to say to Vakhtang that it is worth fighting for truth because liberty means more than being out of prison.”

Lia Toklikishvili, Leader of the Journalistic Investigation
The project is implemented by the Human Rights Center and magazine “Sitkva” with the support of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation

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