Controversies over police brutality in May 26 events
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, September 7
The May 26 protest events and some unclear facts still attract public interest. The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) had serious concerns about the disappearance and death of street rally protesters and on September 6 presented the results of their inquiry. Analyses were carried out by the British firm DABS Forensics Ltd on certain cases and the results are significant.
The results were presented by the Head of the organization, Tamar Chugoshvili. GYLA has actively worked to clarify human rights violations following the May 26 protests and during the dispersal of the rally. Along with other issues, they focused on the analysis of cases of loss of life during the dispersal of the rally. GYLA examined in particular the deaths of Nika Kvintradze and Suliko Asatiani where important evidence produced substantial doubts about the official version of the case published by the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The organization appealed to DABS Forensics to carry out forensic image comparison of photo and video materials allegedly showing the detention of Nika Kvintradze “For the purpose of image comparison and identification of an individual shown on the photo and video materials, we provided forensic expert Kenneth Linge with video footage broadcasted by Rustavi 2 and photo materials where a witness supposedly identified Nika Kvintradze, as well as post-mortem and passport photos of Nika Kvintradze.”
As a result of morphological comparisons carried out by DABS Forensics laboratories, "The passport image, the post-mortem photograph and image are all the same person. The forensic analysis found seven similarities in the images, the most important being a significant swelling on the left temple possibly resulting from a blow, shown in a photo image and the post-mortem photograph", the conclusion reads . At the same time, examination of the video footage revealed no evidence of any tampering. Furthermore, forensic analysis determined that the video material and the photograph where a witness supposedly identified Nika Kvintradze showed the same scene from different viewpoints. Thus, the forensic image analysis confirmed that a person shown by the video and photo material recorded on the rally site was Nika Kvintradze and that during the rally dispersal Nika Kvintradze was under police detention.
Responding to a statement made by the organization, the Interior Ministry accused GYLA of lying. The Ministry authorities stated that they were surprised about the false information released by the NGO and that the person detained by the police and seen on the video on May 26 was Giorgi Bakradze, who currently lives in the Kareli town of the Shida Kartli Region, alive and well.
The Ministry released an interview with Bakradze on Tuesday. The man recollects how he was detained by the police, transferred to the police department and released in a few hours after being interrogated. As for the earlier official information about how two men died, the Ministry claimed that “Nika Kvintradze and Suliko Asatiani died as a result of electric shock they suffered on the roof of a shop located near the Freedom Square subway station." The man shown on the photo, they claim, was not Nika Kvintradze.
Unlike the authorities, the opposition Republican Party shares the opinion of GYLA , stating that law enforcement officials guilt is revealed by the evidence, “Saakashvili should choose: assist the impartial investigation of the issue or become a direct participant in concealing the crime.”
GYLA will provide the findings of the forensic image analysis to the Prosecutor’s office, asking them to adequately respond to the evidence submitted and provide the public with an explanation. Also, GYLA demands that an investigation be made to respond to all substantiated doubts in the deaths of Nika Kvintradze and Suliko Asatiani according to the findings of the forensic analyses and to publicize the evidence that served as the basis for the investigation’s findings.
Finally, GYLA demands that the Government ensure the fulfillment of procedural guarantees for carrying out independent, objective and effective investigations into the given cases and undertake corresponding measures to dispel all doubts as to the impartiality of the investigation. They demand that the authorities prosecute the criminals involved in these deaths.