Ombudsman confident late PM Zhvania’s death can be explained

Zurab Zhvania was one of the main contributors to the 2003 Rose Revolution and ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo by AFP, 16 Dec 2014 - 18:52, Tbilisi,Georgia

The number of unanswered questions surrounding late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania’s death in 2005 has increased this year but Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili believes there is a "chance” the case will be solved.

The Ombudsman called on the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to complete its investigation in a transparent way as there was a significant amount of public interest in the case. A thorough, open and complete investigation was the only way the cause of Zhvania’s death would truly be solved, he said.

"I think it is a matter of great importance for the body to be exhumed,” the Ombudsman said.

Exhumation of the late PM’s body was something Zhvania’s family did not oppose.

"Whatever the investigation needs to be done, will get done,” the late PM’s brother Gogla Zhvania told reporters today when asked if he believed an exhumation was needed or not.

G. Zhvania also commented on this week’s prison release of Mikheil Dzadzamia, one of the two security guards tending to the late PM on the night of his death. He was released on 2,000 GEL bail two days ago after being charged with negligence, which led to the PM’s death in 2005.

"I do not think Dzadzamia’s release will dramatically change anything in the investigation process,” G. Zhvania said, adding the Prosecutor’s Office was "guiltless” in Dzadzamia’s release.

Imprisonment as a measure of constraint for Dzadzamia was changed to bail at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Meanwhile Dzadzamia has asked for his fate to be decided by a jury. Yesterday the Prosecutor’s Office said the process of jury selection was lengthy, while under the Georgian Criminal Code, the total term of imprisonment applied as a measure of constraint should not exceed nine months.

Since the nine-month prison term would soon expire for Dzadzamia, the Prosecutor’s Office had to release him on bail.

"There are many things in [Georgian] legislation that can be used in a tricky way,” G. Zhvania said. He believed Dzadzamia’s demand for a jury panel was one of these kinds of tricks.

"Our opponents in this case are the people who are not interested in the solving this case [and] will use these tricks but this cannot change anything important.”

Currently, three separate investigations are ongoing in connection with Zhvania’s unexpected death. The first is to determine the exact cause of the man’s death; the second is to determine why Levan Chachua, the expert in charge of the death case did not include all body injuries in his autopsy report; and the final investigation related to the negligence charges against Zhvania’s two security guards Dzadzamia and Koba Kharshiladze.

Zhvania’s lifeless body was found in a rented apartment in the early morning of February 3, 2005. The body of then-Kvemo Kartli region Governor Raul Usupov was also found at the scene.

The official cause of the men’s death has not been determined but officials and experts, who examined the bodies, claimed the men died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from an inadequately ventilated gas heater.

However, Zhvania’s family and friends said they did not trust this version and were now waiting for the investigation to end to learn the truth.