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Saakashvili’s charges might become graver

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, August 13
A former employee of the Constitutional Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Oleg Melnikov, has given testimony against the former head of the Constitutional Security Department, Data Akhalaia, the former Minister of Justice, Zurab Adeishvili, and, the former President, Mikheil Saakashvili, with regard to Sandro Girgvliani’s murder case.

According to Melnikov, after the murder of Sandro Girgvliani, Data Akhalaia met with Zurab Adeishvili and Mikheil Saakashvili. Melnikov claims that the arrest and release of people for Girgvliani’s murder was beforehand agreed among the officials. Melnikov has pleaded guilty and stated that he wrote a false testimony on the case under the order of Akhalaia. Melnikov’s interrogation will be continued on August 18.

Sandro Girgvliani’s murder case is one of the most notorious criminal cases in the modern history of Georgia. Girgvliani was found dead on January 28, 2006 on the outskirts of Tbilisi with multiple injuries inflicted as a result of physical abuse. Several men were arrested and released soon after for the murder. According to an Imedi Television investigation, the murder of the 28 year-old head of the United Georgian Bank's Foreign Department can be traced to a series of events which developed in Tbilisi’s elite Shardeni Bar. The Inspector General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vasil Sanodze, was holding his birthday party to which the highest members of the department were invited. Tako Salakaia, wife of the then Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, was in attendance, and by chance happened to be a friend of Girgvliani's girlfriend, Tamar Maisuradze. Maisuradze's presence was reportedly the reason for the subsequent victim's fatal visit. According to witnesses, Girgvliani had verbally abused some of those attending the birthday party. After the party, Girgvliani and his friend’s Levan Bukhaidze were kidnapped, though Bukhaidze managed to escape alive.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on April 26, 2011 partially in favor of complaints lodged by the Girgvliani family against the Georgian government, saying that the investigation into the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani “manifestly lacked the requisite independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness” and ordered the government to pay the family 50,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage.

Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili welcomed Melnikov’s cooperation with the investigation. He stressed that the process is totally transparent and free from the government’s interference.

Malkhaz Velijanashvili, former lawyer of Melnikov, and the lawyers of Akhalaia and Saakashvili claim that Melnikov is being forced by the Prosecutor’s office to give testimony against the former officials. The suspicion is shared by UNM member Givi Targamadze, who states that there is no real evidence in the case.

Minister of Refugees Sozar Subari states that the process is fair and without any illegal interference. He stressed that there are many question marks in the case, and the question marks will be replaced by hard facts that will be revealed by an unbiased investigation.