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Person accused of attacking microfinance organization pretrial custody for two months

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, November 26
The court has left levan Zurabishvili, a man accused of attacking a microfinance organization on November 20, in pretrial detention for two months. The Prosecutor's Office demanded the detaining of Zurabashvili, while the defense asked for Zurabashvili’s release on GEL1,000 bail.

According to the official information, on November 20, Zurabishvili, armed with what looked like a grenade and a firearm, entered the office of MBC microfinance company in central Tsereteli avenue in Tbilisi and took 19 hostages. Later via Facebook, he voiced his three demands, urging MPs to pass the following laws: to prohibit all kinds of gambling throughout Georgia, make banks limit the annual interest rate to 7 percent, and reduce medication prices. He stated that pensioners do not receive pensions high enough to afford medicines. After negotiations with the attacker, all the hostages were freed gradually.

According to Zurabashvili’s lawyer Giorgi Chochua, it was not a robbery as a person under his defense demanded no money and did not pose threat to anyone. He announced that Zurabashvili had been holding a grenade-shaped lighter to draw the attention of journalists, and he was not behaving violently or threatening anyone. The lawyer said that his client had not restricted anyone’s freedom of movement and recalled Zurabashvili’s words – “I remember at first there were more of them ('hostages'), I freed everyone who asked me to leave,” said Zurabashvili.

The Prosecutor's Office of Georgia accuses Zurabashvili of hostage-taking, which refers to Article 144, Part 2, Subparagraph c of the Criminal Code of Georgia and is punishable for 9-14 years.

The lawyer asked for his client’s release on ?1,000 bail as “Zurabashvili did not intend to commit a crime and his action was a form of protest,” however the prosecution believes that the detainee must be left in custody.

Tbilisi City Court denied the request of bail and has sentenced Levan Zurabashvili to imprisonment as a measure of restraint. As a result of the ballistic examination, Zurabashvili was acquitted in the part of illegal purchase and carrying of weapons.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Levan Zurabashvili’s psychiatric examination has been scheduled, which will determine his state of mental health at the time of committing the crime. As the prosecutor of the case stated, the investigation proceeds, several investigative and procedural actions will be carried out as a result of which the final decision will be announced.

According to Zurabashvili’s lawyer, the defense side plans to appeal the sentence.