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Georgia: Nino Burjanadze’s Husband Sentenced in Absentia

Georgia: Nino Burjanadze's Husband Sentenced in Absentia

Bitsadze, left, and Nino Burjanadze (

Badri Bitsadze, the husband of opposition leader Nino Burjanadze, was sentenced by a Tbilisi court on Friday to five years and six months in prison on charges stemming from violent demonstrations in late May.

Bitsadze—whose whereabouts have been unknown for months—was sentenced in absentia by the court. Rumors have persisted since early June that he is in hiding in Armenia or South Ossetia. Russia, however, would be a more likely possibility.

A statement released by the court said that Bitsadze was found guilty of “organizing an attack on police during the Public Assembly rally with the use of truncheons and other weapons to provoke large-scale clashes” during a series of protests in late May. These resulted in the deaths of a protester and police officer who were both struck by cars in a convoy carrying Nino Burjanadze, her husband, and other opposition leaders. The “Public Assembly” is an opposition coalition linked to Burjanadze and Bitsadze, among others.

For every spy drama or accusation of sedition in Georgia there is, inevitably, a video or audio recording – usually released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. One would think that Nino Burjanadze and her son Anzor Bitsadze would have been more careful in May when they allegedly discussed how they might engineer a civil war. But if the recording of a purported conversation between the two of them is genuine, Nino and her son went over a range of issues including how many lives a civil war might cost, and whether the Georgian Army will oppose them in a showdown.

One of the extraordinary aspects of this recording is how deluded mother and son are regarding Georgian support for Russia and the implication that the two or them are expecting Russian government assistance if they attempt to overthrow the government of President Saakashvili. Nino insists that public support for Russia amongst Georgians is ”50/50” and Anzor says that if the Kojori Special Battalion, a Georgian Army unit, shoots revolutionaries, they will soon have the Russian GRU to deal with.

Go here for the recording.

In a related video released by the Ministry, a group of men appear to be discussing plans to overthrow the government. The video, supposedly shot at a café in Tbilisi, appears to show Badri Bitsadze and others calculating the number of provocateurs they would need, as well as whether Molotov Cocktails could be used in an uprising. At one point, the video appears to show former Georgian security chief Irakli Batiashvili saying that the opposition group would need “3,000 experienced and organized warriors” to spearhead the revolution. Batiashvili, who was in 2007 convicted of assisting in a plot to overthrow the government, has said that the contents of the video have been interpreted out of context, and that he and his companions were not discussing an armed rebellion.

The conviction and sentencing of Bitsadze will do little to quell the fervor of Nino Burjandze, despite the fact that her recklessness in recent years has destroyed her legitimacy in the eyes of the Georgian people. She and her allies can always manage to energize ten or twenty thousand agitators in Freedom Square, although even Nino sighed on the audio tape, “How we need it!” when her son suggested that perhaps they could get a turnout of 30,000 or more.



Karl Rahder

Karl Rahder has written on the South Caucasus for ISN Security Watch and ISN Insights (, news and global affairs sites run by the Swiss government. Karl splits his time between the US and the former USSR - mostly the Caucasus and Ukraine, sometimes teaching international relations at universities (in Chicago, Baku, Tbilisi) or working on stories for ISN and other publications. Karl received his MA from the University of Chicago, and first came to the Caucasus in 2004 while on a CEP Visiting Faculty Fellowship. He's reported from the Caucasus on topics such as attempted coups, sedition trials, freedom of the press, and the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For many years, Karl has also served as an on-call election observer for the OSCE, and in 2010, he worked as a long-term observer in Afghanistan for Democracy International.