Ex-police official: “UNM leaders forced me to find false witnesses”

Ex –head of the Constitutional Security Department, David Akhalaia, who is currently wanted.
Agenda.ge, 19 Sep 2016 - 18:58, Tbilisi,Georgia

A former police official has spoken out in a court of law saying he was forced by top figures of the previous government to find false eye witnesses in the wake of a brutal murder of three youth in 2006. 

Giorgi Merebashvili, former employee of the Constitutional Security Department (CSD) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, testified in Tbilisi City Court today about the tasks he was required to do under the United National Movement (UNM)-led government.

Merebashvili testified he was tasked by CSD ex-deputy leader David Chkhatarashvili to find two false witnesses who would say three young men resisted police before they were gunned down.

Merebashvili was speaking about a notorious case relating to a special operation in January 2006 – three years after UNM took office – when three young men were shot and killed by police in Navtlughi, in the outskirts of capital Tbilisi. 

  • The shooting took place at a bus station in Navtlughi and ultimately claimed the lives of Marad Artmeladze, 23, Roman Surmanidze, 21, and Murad Gorgadze, 17. 
  • A 2014 investigation by the current Georgian Dream Government into the young men’s deaths concluded that former CSD head David Akhalaia, his deputy Giorgi Mazmishvili and other people from the department unlawfully shot the young men numerous times.
  • The investigation revealed Artmeladze had been shot five times, Surmanidze had been shot six times and Gorgadze had been fired upon 12 times.
  • At the time of the incident it was believed the trio would assist several prisoners to host a prison riot, as one of the victims, Gorgadze, had a brother who at the time was in jail. 
  • At the time of the 2014 investigation, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office said Bacho Akhalaia (ex-head of the country’s Penitentiary Department) and his brother, CSD head D. Akhalaia, decided to demonstrate "extreme cruelty to society for the purpose of rooting fear among inmates and publically introducing a Zero Tolerance policy” against criminals.
David Akhalaia planned the violent special operation,” said the Prosecutor’s Office in 2014.

The investigation revealed D. Akhalaia and his staff had information about the travelling route of the three young men and killed them for their suspected role in the prison break. The shooting happened despite the trio being unarmed and willing to surrender.

After being informed of the shooting, B. Akhalaia pursued the theory of an impending prison riot and tortured Gia Gorgadze and other prisoners, stated the investigation.

Speaking about this in Court today, Merebashvili said: "When I arrived at the scene the three were already dead and weapon had been dropped in front of their bodies. Standing nearby was David Akhalaia, SCD officials Shalva Tatukhashvili, Giorgi Dgebuadze and others.”

A bit later I was tasked by Chkhatarashvili to find two witnesses who would say the [victims] resisted police and only after that, they were shot,” Merebashvili added. 

In 2014 after the GD-led investigation B. Akhalaia was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail for his involvement in a case concerning abuse of prisoners and a fatal shooting in 2006. He is currently in prison, while his brother D. Akhalaia is currently in hiding and is wanted by Georgia’s law enforcers.