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Ex-police official tasked to find false witnesses

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, September 21
Ex-police official Giorgi Merebashvili says he was tasked by top figures under the previous authorities to find false eye-witnesses in the wake of a brutal murder of three youngsters in 2006.

Merebashvili, a former employee of the Constitutional Security Department (SCD) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), has given a testimony in court where he said he was tasked by ex-deputy head of SCD David Chkhatarashvili to find two men who would say how people resisted police before they were gunned down.

The case concerned a notorious special operation in January 2006, three years after the United National Movement (UNM) Government took office, when three young men were shot by police in the Navtlughi suburb in Tbilisi.

The special operation claimed the lives of Marad Artmeladze, 23, Roman Surmanidze, 21, and Murad Gorgadze, 17, and took place at a bus station in Navtlughi.

The investigation conducted under the current authorities in 2014 said ex-head of CSD David Akhalaia, his subordinate Giorgi Mazmishvili and other people from the department shot Artmeladze five times, Surmanidze six times and Gorgadze 12 times.

The late Gorgadze’s brother, prisoner Gia Gorgadze, was named as the reason for the special operation by the previous authorities. They said after the people were killed the three intended to help start a prison riot in which Gia Gorgadze was to be involved. The riot was allegedly supposed to end in a jailbreak attempt.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office under the current authorities, who took office in 2012, said Bacho Akhalaia, head of the Penitentiary Department and his brother, CSD head Data Akhalaia, decided to demonstrate “extreme cruelty to society for the purpose of spreading fear among inmates and introducing publicly the so-called Zero Tolerance policy”.

The Zero Tolerance police was declared by the former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his team as tool for fighting against criminal activity.

“To this end, Data Akhalaia planned the violent special operation upon the use of information on the alleged escape of the prisoners,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

The investigation stated Data Akhalaia and his people had prior information about the travel route of the young people and killed them despite the fact the three had no firearms and were not resisting the police.

Bacho Akhalaia, who was informed about the killing, pursued the theory about an impending prison riot, tortured Gia Gorgadze and other prisoners, according to the investigation.

“When I arrived at the scene the three were already dead and weapons were dropped in front of their bodies. There was Data Akhalaia, SCD officials Shalva Tatukhashvili, Giorgi Dgebuadze and others,” Merebashvili said today.

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

Bacho Akhalaia was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail in a case concerning the beating of prisoners and a fatal shooting in 2006. Currently he is in prison, while his brother remains wanted by Georgia’s law enforcement bodies.

UNM members state that Akhalaia and all ex-officials who are now in custody are politically persecuted and the personal prisoners of Georgia’s ex-Prime Minister, founder of the current ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili.