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Girgvliani’s murderers freed

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, September 7
The murderers of Sandro Girgvliani were released on Saturday, Chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organisation Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights Nana Kakabadze announced yesterday. However the Ministry of Penitentiary, Probation and Legal Assistance has not yet confirmed this officially, stating that those convicted of this notorious murder were being considered for early release but the Ministry could not say whether they had been. “In spite of the fact that the murderers of Girgvliani have been released neither the Prison Department nor the Ministry will confirm it officially,” Kakabadze said.

Despite the lack of confirmation it is obvious that Girgvliani’s murderers are now free. During Sunday sermon yesterday, in Sameba Cathedral Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II met the released men and gave them his blessing to live in a monastery for a year. “There are often cases in which a person kills another person, which means that love and belief do not exist in him, but repentance is possible for every sin. The issue is the relationship between the individual human being and society. During the Communist regime society was put first and thus the individual lost its value. However the most precious thing is the individual human being. All the riches in the world are worth less than one man,” the Catholicos-Patriarch stated in his speech on September 6.

Opposition reaction to the release of Girgvliani’s murderers was severe. Vice-Speaker and Opposition MP Levan Vephkhvadze said that an acute public reaction was inevitable and if it is not sufficiently serious more releases of this kind will occur. Vephkhvadze said that the murderers had been promised release earlier but as a result of strong public protest this became difficult. “Yet today it seems the authorities are very self-confident. We said exactly the same thing before the mass protest rallies began - without a rational attitude towards the rallies, we would see Saakashvili’s power strengthening. Saakashvili feels as secure now as he did in 2004-2005,” Vephkhvadze said.

Conservative Leader Kakha Kukava expressed his astonishment at the releases and called on people to express their alarm, adding that the releases are an admission that Mikheil Saakashvili stood behind the investigation of this case and the process was compromised. Republican Davit Zurabishvili said that the authorities were mocking the people by freeing these murderers. “This is a mockery of society. I cannot find even one word sufficient to express what this is. By doing this the authorities have told their people that they don’t care about them,” Zurabishvili said. Government officials have not made any official comments so far.

The four men found guilty of murdering Sandro Girgvliani, Gia Alania, Avtandil Aptsiauri, Aleksandre Gachava and Mikheil Bibiluri, were charged according to Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Alania was sentenced to 8 years and Bibiluridze, Ghachava and Apciauri 7. Later these sentences were halved.

Girgvliani’s case was one of the most notorious of recent times. This 28 year-old, head of the United Georgian Bank’s International Relations Department, was found dead on January 28, 2006 on the outskirts of Tbilisi bearing multiple injuries which were the result of physical abuse. The incident became a focus of public attention after it emerged that several top-level officials from the Interior Ministry could have had links to the case.