Georgia releases confessed Russian spy

Georgian photographer Giorgi Abdaladze plead guilty to espionage and was released on probation

From Ellen Barry, the New York Times:  Last week, several days after the photographer Giorgi Abdaladze confessed to selling classified documents to Russia’s foreign intelligence service, he was released without being sentenced to a prison term or even given a fine. After Georgian officials had publicly excoriated Mr. Abdaladze as being a participant in a brazen espionage campaign, his 15-day prosecution ended as abruptly as it had begun.

The brief case against Mr. Abdaladze and three other photographers was a baffling one, even in a season of high Georgian anxiety about covert Russian activities. Because it ended in a plea agreement, like an overwhelming number of criminal prosecutions in Georgia, it will never be resolved in court, and all four of the accused risk spending years in prison if they violate their deal by speaking about it.

It has left behind a deep rift between parts of Georgian society — those who believe Russian agents have been able to infiltrate the closest circles around President Mikheil Saakashvili, and those who believe the government has entangled innocent people in its claims against Russia. Western officials, who must weigh whether to confront Russia over a series of Georgian charges, have been cautious in their assessment. . . .

Lawyers for Mr. [Zurab] Kurtsikidze and Mr. Abdaladze announced that their clients had agreed to plead guilty to espionage. They were released on probation, with conditional sentences ranging from six months to three years. Georgia’s public defender, Giorgi Tughushi, said that he had met with the defendants while they were in custody and that none of them said they had come under physical or psychological pressure to confess.    (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz/New York Times)

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