Forensic expert in late PM Zhvania’s case arrested

Prosecutor’s Office announced at a special briefing that Levan Chachua was arrested on charge of negligence., 21 Mar 2014 - 01:10, Tbilisi,Georgia

A forensic expert who took part in the process of reviewing the bodies of Georgia’s late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Deputy Governor of Kvemo Kartli region Raul Usupov has been arrested.

At a special briefing the Prosecutor’s Office announced Levan Chachua, the former head of the Forensic Department of the National Bureau of Forensic Expertise, was arrested on charge of negligence.

"Preliminary investigation revealed on February 3, 2005, Levan Chachua showed negligence and improper conduct of the forensic examination of the ex-PM Zurab Zhvania and Raul Usupov’s corpses. In particular, he did not describe existing injuries that could be clearly seen on the bodies,” Prosecutor’s Office stated.

Graphic and disturbing images showing the dead bodies of two former Georgian officials was leaked on the internet about midnight last night. The video titled "Saakashvili killed Mr. Zurab Zhvania” was uploaded by a user under the name Hakim Pasha.

The montage contained 12 still photos of the bodies that identified a number of possible injuries that could be relevant to the men’s deaths.

Commenting to journalists after the photos were leaked, Chachua claimed they were not authentic. He said the examiners only saw damage around Zhvania’s lips and "no damage at all” to Usupov.

"I do not know from where these photos came from but I know the Prosecutor’s Office recorded everything at the time and I demand a video to be revealed which will confirm that there had not been any other damage than [the lips of] Zurab Zhvania,” Chachua stated last night.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, since issues were raised that questioned the authenticity of the examination report, it was necessary to complete a new examination in order to identify the real cause and circumstances of Zhvania’s and Usupov’s death.

Criminal Proceedings have begun against Chachua under the Article 342 of the Georgian Criminal Code which holds a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

The opposition has reacted at the arrest of Chachua. Members of the United National Movement have criticized the Government on Facebook.

"Appointing a briefing at midnight had the sole purpose to constrain tension among people. You are the hostages of your own false promises and circumstances and now looking for a way out. It is bad you do not avoid any kind of humility on your way - even leaking disturbing images from the Prosecutor's Office," UNM Parliament member Irma Nadirashvili said in an address to Government officials.

Zhvania was found dead in a rented apartment in the early morning of February 3, 2005. He was one of the main contributors to the 2003 Rose Revolution and ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. The body of Usupov was also found at the scene.

The official cause of the men’s death has not been determined but officials claimed the men died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from an inadequately ventilated gas heater. An investigation to determine the exact cause of death is ongoing.

Meanwhile the brother of the late PM, Gogla Zhvania, commented on Chachua’s arrest and said an investigation was "coming to the culmination”. Chachua’s arrest was just one of the stages, he believed.

"I won’t reveal details as investigation is ongoing. The arrest of Chachua has not been a surprise for me however I did not know when exactly it would happen,” Gogla Zhvania said.

Former Prosecutor General Murtaz Zodelava was questioned today in relation to the same case. Oother former government officials are also expected to be questioned.

The family of the late PM has agreed to any investigative action to help determine the cause of death, including on exhumation of the corpse of Zurab Zhvania.