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Questions raised about death of suspect in police custody

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, March 2
The death of 46-year-old robbery suspect, Solomon Kimeridze, at a Kathuri police station this week has raised questions about whether the detainee was a victim of police brutality, or merely party to a tragic accident.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kimeridze, a resident of the village of Kvishkheti in Khashuri, was taken to a police station on February 27 for questioning in connection with a robbery. Kimeridze had a previous robbery conviction, and was a suspect in the theft of a kettle from a fellow village resident.

“While going downstairs from the third floor to the second floor of the police station, accused Solomon Kimeridze fell over the handrail into a foyer of the police station’s first floor; as a result he sustained multiple bodily injuries,” the statement reads. “An ambulance was immediately called by police employees and he was transferred to hospital”.

The Ministry maintains that Kimeridze “died due to injuries not compatible with life”.

The two officers accompanying Kimeridze preceded him down the stairs, and so were unable to provide an account of how he fell.

The case is being investigated by the Shida Kartli and Mtskheta-Mtianeti district prosecutor’s office. The Georgian Public Defender is also involved, releasing a statement referencing a European court precedent, which raises suspicions of brutality if a suspect dies in police custody. In these cases, the statement reads, "The state is especially obliged to carry out a transparent investigation and present truthful explanations”.

Kimeridze’s family have said that his body had numerous bruises, including on the face, and they want to know exactly what happened at the police station. Sozar Subari, an ex-public defender who is now with Georgian Dream, visited Kimeridze’s family on February 28, and said he was sure that the man was “tortured” while in police custody. Subari calls the official version of events “a fairy-tale that no one believes". He has requested the Public Defender look into the case and oversee an independent medical examination to discover the exact nature of Kimeridze's injuries.

Opposition party Georgian Way also released a statement, calling for punishment for the two officers who were accompanying the suspect. "Even if we believe the version presented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, those policemen accompanying Kimeridze should be punished, as the man died while their presence".

The issue was initially raised by opposition MP, Gia Tsagareishvili after the President’s speech to the Parliament, on February 28 .