The investigation concerning the Lapankuri special operation is ongoing. Three corpses were exhumed in Duisi cemetery in the Pankisi gorge on May 8. The process was carried out by the experts of the Levan Samkharauli National Bureau of Expertise. Relatives and locals also attended the process.
Corpses of those killed at Lapankuri exhumed
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, May 9
Relatives of Aslan Margoshvili, Salam Zaurbekov and Bahaudin Baghakashvili stated that the previous government did not carry out a proper investigation. They mentioned that the process might not be fair under the new government either. According to them, there are many within former figures in the new leadership who might obstruct the investigation process.
“Despite the fact that our religion prohibits the exhumation, we agreed to it, as there are lots of questions that remain concerning the special operation,” said the father of Margoshvili, one of the men killed in the operation. He added that the former government either did not conduct an investigation, or just destroyed the results. Relatives of the individuals who were killed demanded participation of an independent expert during the examination and addressed the public defender of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili, to address this issue.
The prosecutor’s office confirmed the fact that the materials regarding the Lapankuri special operation did not include the conclusion of experts reflecting the causes of death of those killed during the melee.
“A forensic investigation will be carried out by an independent expert as well,” Public Defender, Nanuahsvili, informed. According to Nanuashvili, the Ombudsman’s office is undertaking negotiations with independent experts and one of them will be involved in the re-investigation process.
Nanuashvili explained that involvement of the independent expert does not mean distrust of the official investigators. According to him, an independent expert was a demand of the deceased’s parents and at the same time, the expert will make the process more transparent. Nanuashvili commented on the previous investigation: “I cannot make a certain statement on the fact. Both are possible– either the investigators did not investigate or it was carried out and the results have been destroyed,” Nanuahsvili said.
A special statement concerning the Lapankuri special operation was made by the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. The NGO addressed the investigative bodies to improve the shortcomings connected to the case and raised issues regarding the approach that was taken.
The GYLA states that the investigation should also be carried out regarding the use of latent force by the Georgian law-enforcement bodies. “How right and proportional were the actions undertaken by law-enforcement? The investigation should also study the process of planning and performing the special operation,” the GYLA states.
The organization demands the investigation be lead by the prosecutor’s office and not by the interior ministry.
On August 29, 2012, the Georgian Interior Ministry announced that it was carrying out “anti-terrorist operation against an armed group” close to Lapankuri village in the Lopota gorge. Later, on the same day, it announced that eleven gunmen and three Georgian special service personnel, including a military doctor, were killed in the clash.