Fighting Back against Iranian Terror

An appeals court judge in Tbilisi, Georgia, astonished his colleagues earlier this month by dismissing a state-appointed prosecutor in the middle of a public court hearing.

In the official version, the prosecutor, Tea Giorgadze, resigned from the case because she wanted to spend more time with a newborn child, even though she retains all of her other cases.

But at the February 4, 2021 court hearing, the defendant in the case – former Iranian national Alireza Soleimanepak – stunned the Court by revealing a secret document stamped by the prosecutor’s office that had been prepared especially for the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi.

As he handed the ten-page Persian-language document to the Court, Soleimanepak explained that he had snatched it out of the hands of the deputy chief of mission of the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi, who had come to harass him in prison, pretending to be from the German embassy.

Neither the judge nor the Soleimanepak’s defense attorney could locate the document in the official record of the case. It appeared to be an ex parte communication from the prosecutor directly to the Iranian embassy, which has been desperate to get Soleimanepak extradited to Iran so they can execute him for treason.

Why should Americans care about a breach of justice in an obscure court case half-way round the world in a former Soviet republic?

First, because U.S. taxpayers have invested quite a lot of money in the Georgian judicial system through Congressional appropriations. Private U.S. companies have also tried to invest in Georgia’s oil and gas industry but have faced huge obstacles from Russian-backed interests and their cronies in the Georgian government. Indeed, on Feb. 19, 2019, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R, Ok) introduced the Georgia Fair Business Practicses Sanctions Act that would have impounded the U.S. assets of Georgia’s main oligarch, a well-known ally of Vladimir Putin.

But even more important: it’s all about Iran. The defendant in the case, Alireza Soleimanepak, is one of three key witnesses in the landmark Havlish v. Osama bin Laden et al lawsuit brought against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

As a counter-intelligence officer working in the Supreme Leader’s intelligence office in 2001, Soleimanepak helped with security arrangements for meetings between Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and top Iranian regime officials before the September 11 attacks.

He fled Iran in late July 2001 and presented information about the al Qaeda-Iran meetings to U.S. intelligence officers in Baku, Azerbaijan, and said the two were working together on a massive terror attack on America. Even though he gave the exact date of the attack – September 11 – he was not taken seriously at the time.

I first interviewed Soleimanepak in 2003, under his Iranian intelligence alias Hamid Reza Zakeri. Attorneys in the Havlish case took his deposition in Europe in 2005.

For more than five years after a U.S. District Court found Iran guilty of having played a direct, material role in the 9/11 conspiracy, Soleimanepak managed to hide his true identity as one of the 9/11 witnesses from the Iranian regime and lived as a political refugee in Germany.

When the regime discovered who he was in 2016, they initially tried to get him to recant his testimony. When he refused, they jailed his sister in Iran. When that failed to bend him to their will, in 2017 they arrested his brother on espionage charges.

And then in February 2018, through corrupt accomplices in the Georgian state security apparatus, the Iranians managed to get Soleimanepak himself arrested in Tbilisi, where he had gone in an attempt to free his brother in nearby Iran.

The Interior Minister at the time, Georgie Ghakharia, has admitted on Georgian television that he ordered Soleimanepak’s arrest based on information provided by the Iranian regime. Today, Ghakharia, who also has close ties to Russia, serves as Prime Minister of the Republic of Georgia.

During the three years he has spent in a Georgian jail, Soleimanepak was tortured so badly he nearly lost his hearing. He was held incommunicado for ten months, and not allowed to communicate with family or friends. His then-attorney failed to demand disculpatory evidence throughout the lower court proceedings that found him guilty and seemed more interested in pleasing the prosecutor than his client.

Far more than a case of abject human rights abuse by an American ally, however, this is a story of the deep corruption of the Georgian regime, where prosecutors are in bed with an intelligence ministry that turns a blind eye to Iranian regime agents who use the Republic of Georgia as a comfortable base for intelligence operations and money-laundering.

And now, for the first time, it has become the story of an honest judge attempting to deliver justice to an innocent man – and through him, help restore the reputation of Georgia’s much maligned criminal justice system.

Map credit: Ssolbergj CC BY-3.0 license

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of The Election Heist (Post Hill Press, distributed by Simon and Schuster) and many other books.