The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has laid new charges against the former president of Georgia in connection with the notorious case of kidnapping, torture and murder of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006. Former president Mikheil Saakashvili faces a new indictment of abusing official authority, which has a jail sentence of three to five years under Georgian law.
Today’s statement of the Prosecutor’s Office noted an investigation "carried out based on the recommendations provided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to Georgia revealed that we are dealing with the system crime.”
In April 2011, the ECHR in Strasbourg partially satisfied a lawsuit filed by the Girgvliani family against the Georgian government and stated the investigation into Girgvliani’s death "clearly lacked the requisite, independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness”.
The Court ordered the Georgian government to pay €50,000 (141,000 GEL) compensation to the Girgvliani family for moral damage.
Charge against Saakashvili
Today the Prosecutor’s Office claimed the crime against Girgvliani was "concealed, the investigation falsified [and] high officials involved in the crime were covered and diverted from liability in accordance with the criminal plan coordinated and agreed between state authorities and the senior management. Those involved were ex-minister of Internal Affairs Ivane (Vano) Merabishvili, former head of the Constitutional Department David (Data) Akhalaia, head of the Penitentiary Department Bachana Akhalaia, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office and Saakashvili.
As for the Saakashvili’s participation in these crimes, the investigators emphasized:
- Saakashvili planned criminal activities to conceal the murder, to falsify the case and mislead the public together with ex-government top officials Ivane Merabishvili, B. Akhalaia and his brother D. Akhalaia. The Office underlined the ex-president was threaten by the impact the case would have on the government’s rating because of the high public interest, thus he knew from the very first day that many top officials were closely linked to the case.
- In February 2006, D. Akhalaia gathered the officers of the Constitutional Security Department that participated in the kidnapping and demanded that several of them should have taken responsibility for the crime. He also ordered them to refrain from naming the persons who ordered the crime and other high officials who directly participated in it. Saakashvili promised to pardon those charged after their conviction.
- Four senior intelligence officers and top official Geronti Alania of the Constitutional Security Department were arrested in March 2006. They were sentenced to more than six years in jail but were pardoned by Saakashvili after three years and nine months behind bars. Moreover, they enjoyed illegal privileges while in detention and received $100,000 USD each.
The Tbilisi City Court had already issued a guilty verdict for Merabishvili and B. Akhalaia for concealing the crime, falsifying the investigation and creating comfortable conditions for the convicts in prison. As for D. Akhalaia, who is currently in Greece, the case against him has been transferred to the court for further action.
Meanwhile Girgvliani, who was head of the United Georgian Bank's Foreign Department, was tortured and killed on January 28, 2006. He had been severely attacked and his body was found with multiple injuries near Okrokana cemetery.
The 28-year-old’s death was connected with a situation that developed at Sharden Bar, an elite Tbilisi bar, earlier that evening.
It was alleged former Inspector General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vasil Sanodze was holding his birthday party with colleagues at the bar, accompanied by Merabishvili’s wife Tako Salakaia. She was a friend of Girgvliani's girlfriend, Tamar Maisuradze, who was also present at the party. Sources alleged Maisuradze was the reason why Girgvliani had an argument with the Ministry’s spokesperson Guram Donadze and other people at the table. Later that evening Girgvliani was found dead.