Tbilisi City Court. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Three former Interior Ministry officials were in court yesterday. They are on trial accused of having blackmailed a bodyguard of businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili in 2012, shortly before the parliamentary election.

At Thursday’s hearing witnesses said that one of the three defendants, Levan Kardava, former head of the Constitutional Security Department (‘Kudi’), ordered them to make secret surveillance footage of the guard Besik Surmava’s private life.

Zaal Maisuradze, one of the witnesses, said he personally received order from Kardava to ‘find out what was happening in the opposition.’

Witnesses said with the permission of a court, they listened to Surmava’s phone conversations, while Kardava ordered them to film Surmava while he was at a hotel with a woman. Witnesses said they offered Surmava money for his cooperation.

Surmava was blackmailed that if he didn’t cooperate footage from the hotel would be uploaded to the internet. Another witness said they paid EUR 150,000 to Surmava for his cooperation.

The leverage they obtained over Surmava was used to force him into make a fake confession video in order to smear Ivanishvili. In the video, uploaded to Youtube, he says the billionaire head of the opposition Georgian Dream had ordered him to conduct secret surveillance on other members of the coalition.

Kardava, two other former Interior Ministry officials also on trial with him, Shota Khizanishvili and Vazha Leluashvili, and many of their colleagues were detained on November 15, 2012, a month after the change of government following Georgian Dream’s surprise victory in the parliamentary election.

The sweeping case,  involved surveillance through the planting of computer viruses in order to activate the microphone.

The three in this trial are charged with abusing official powers and organizing illegal surveillance.

The next court hearing will be held on May 13.