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Court Finds ex-President Saakashvili Guilty for High-Profile Girgvliani Case

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, July 19
Tbilisi Court of Appeals maintained the verdict delivered by Tbilisi City Court in January this year and found the third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili guilty for abuse of power over the notorious torture and murder case of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006, when Saakashvili was the president and his United National Movement party controlled government and parliament.

Saakashvili was sentenced to three years in prison in absentia and was deprived of the right to take any state post for one year and five months.

Saakashvili’s lawyers say that the verdict is unfair as the former president was sentenced for using his constitutional right to pardon inmates.

The judge said that the ex-president abused his official powers when he pardoned former law enforcers arrested for the Girgvliani case without Pardon Commission’s consultation.

In Georgia, the president is the only authorized person to pardon inmates but he must do so only with the consultation of the Pardon Commission.

Girgvliani was head of the United Georgian Bank's Foreign Department when he was tortured and killed on January 28, 2006. He had been severely assaulted and his body was found with multiple injuries near Tbilisi.

According to different sources, the 28-year-old’s death was connected with a situation that developed at Sharden Bar, an elite Tbilisi bar earlier that evening.

It was alleged that the former Inspector General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vasil Sanodze was holding his birthday party with colleagues at the bar, accompanied by then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili’s wife Tako Salakaia. She was a friend of Girgvliani's girlfriend Tamar Maisuradze, who was also present at the party. Sources alleged that Maisuradze was the reason why Girgvliani had an argument with the Ministry representatives that evening. Later that night Girgvliani was found dead.

In 2006 several then-Interior Ministry employees were held accountable for their involvement in the murder but Irina Enukidze, late Girgvliani’s mother, said she would not stop fighting until all involved, including higher officials linked to the case, were punished.

During her plight Enukidze became ill; she was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2007.

Her family and friends continued her fight, which reached a peak in April 2011 when the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg partially satisfied a lawsuit filed by the Girgvliani family against the Georgian government.

The Court ruling said the investigation into Girgvliani’s death "clearly lacked the requisite, independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness”. The Court ordered the Georgian government to pay ˆ50,000 (141,000 GEL) compensation to the Girgvliani family for moral damage.

The Georgian Dream government renewed the case investigation when they came to power in 2012.

Former Interior Minister Ivane Merabishvili has been sentenced for the case.

Three other cases are filed in Georgia with Saakashvili as a defendant:

Violent dispersal of anti-government mass protests on November 7, 2007; unlawful raiding of Imedi television company by riot police; and the illegal take-over of property owned by late media tycoon Badri (Arkadi) Patarkatsishvili – all filed as one criminal case.

Exceeding official powers, using violence or a weapon and organizing intentional infliction of grave injury by more than one person in the case of the attack on former opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.

Appropriation or embezzlement of budget money in large quantities (more than 8.8 million GEL) with a prior agreement by a group in the case of Special State Protection Service expenses.

Saakashvili served as Georgia’s third president from 2004-2007 and again from 2008-2013.

When he was charged in 2014, he was already in Ukraine.