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The News in Brief

Thursday, July 23
Ghonghadze’s murderer arrested

Ukrainian Intelligence has arrested a former General of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, Alexei Pukach, on suspicion of killing a Georgian journalist, Giorgi Ghonghadze. Pukach was detained in the Zhitomir district of Ukraine and afterwards taken to Kiev, where he is being interrogated.

Giorgi Ghonghadze was a journalist kidnapped and murdered in 2000. The circumstances of his death became a national scandal and a focus for protests against the Government of the then President, Leonid Kuchma. Ghonghadze`s killers have yet to be publicly identified or put on trial, although two men accused of his murder were arrested in March 2005. His widow Myroslava Ghonghadze and their two children were granted political asylum in the United States and have lived there since 2001.

The investigators state that Pukach, who was Chair of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry at the time of the murder, monitored the journalist’s movements and assigned three police officers to kidnap him. Reportedly, Pukach smothered the journalist himself and dropped his corpse in forest. In 2003 Pukach was arrested for destroying documents proving that the journalist was spied on, but he disappeared after being bailed out.

In 2005 President Yushchenko announced that the murder was being investigated. Pukach was charged with premeditated murder and declared wanted by police. (Rustavi 2)

Media address appeal to Biden and Saakashvili

Members of the Georgian media have made a special appeal to US Vice President Joe Biden and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili. In the appeal they highlight some issues where they feel Georgian reality does not reflect the country’s democratic claims, in particular instances of abuse of the rights of journalists, beating them, breaking their cameras, threatening them and so on. They also cite the lack of transparency of the ownership of media outlets, state control of the major TV channels and other violations which hinder the development of freedom of speech and expression in the country.

The appeal was initiatied by Georgian daily newspaper Rezonansi. It is signed by representatives of television stations Maestro and Kavkasia the newspapers Rezonansi, Akhali Taoba, Kviris Palitra, the Georgian Times; the English-language daily The Messenger, Asaval-Dasavali, the Russian-language Svobodnaya Gruzia, Versia and Kvela Siakhle, the magazines Gza, Tbiliselebi and Rating, the radio stations Palitra and Utsnobi, the news agencies Interpressnews; GHN; Pirveli and ExpressNews and the and websites. (The Messenger)

Georgia objects to visit of Russian authorities to South Ossetia

Georgia is accusing Russia of ignoring international norms. The Georgian Foreign Ministry has published a special statement in protest at the visit of the Russian Emergencies Minister and Prosecutor General to breakaway South Ossetia.

“We’d like to note that the entry of the ‘land forces’ of the Russian senior officials has followed the visit of the Russian President to his ‘criminal colleague’, which indicates that the propagation of the virtual reality which Russia has tried to dictate to the rest of the world is being intensified,” the statement says. (Rustavi 2)

Registration deadline for cheap insurance programme expires

The deadline for registration for the Government’s cheap insurance programme has expired. Minister of Health and Social Care Sandro Kvitashvili has said 102,000 people had registered for the programme, which represents quite a normal percentage for a country having an economic and political crisis.

The Minister also said ten companies were involved in the aforementioned programme, five of which had insured 10-20,000 citizens. The Ministry plans to implement similar programmes in the future as well. (Rustavi 2)

Book about NATO published in Georgian

A presentation of a new book about the North Atlantic alliance, This Is NATO, was held in the Muza Cultural Centre yesterday. This is the first Georgian edition of this book on NATO and is published by Tbilisi’s NATO Information Centre. The book is in two volumes and provides full information about the alliance.

This publication project was sponsored by the British Embassy in Georgia. The centre has printed 3,000 copies of the book, which will be presented to Georgian schools, universities and Embassies. (Rustavi 2)

Court hearings for rebel prisoners will be resumed on July 30

The court process concerning the 38 female prisoners who rioted will resume at 12.00 on July, 30. It has been delayed at the request of advocates, who explained that they are not aware of the details of this case and asked judge Merab Jorbenadze to give them time to study it.

The judge complied with the advocates’ request and announced that the case will be heard on July 30 at 12.00, then on September 15 at 11.30 and subsequently daily. 38 women are accused, 37 of them being imprisoned. One of the accused, Eliso Khurtsidze, has been released on bail of GEL 2,000.

The prisoners are serving various sentences for murder, robbery, fraud and drug-related crimes. Most of them are 25-35 years old. Their advocates, from the Legal Service Office, say the prisoners committed their crimes before they were adults and have become adults in prison. They are charged under 3 Articles: property damage, document deletion and prison riot. (Interpressnews)