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Zvania’s death remains a mystery

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 26
Zurab Zhvania was the superstar of independent Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His sudden death gave birth to a mystery, which has remained on the agenda of the Georgian media for almost a decade.

On February 3, 2005, the whole country was shocked by the breaking news. The Georgian Prime Minister, who was one of the co-authors of the Rose Revolution and a member of the triumvirate, together with Mikheil Saakashvili and Nino Burjanadze, was found dead in a flat together with regional deputy governor Raul Usupov, early in the morning.

Approximately 5-6 hours after the death of the prime minister, then Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili made an official statement stating that Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania had died from the poisonous fumes of the natural gas heater installed in the flat where the PM had a confidential meeting with a regional political figure. “It was a tragic accident” he said.

The statement was made without any investigation, expert conclusion, pre-trial expertise, or forensic evidence.

The news immediately raised many flags. Minister Merabishvili did not wait for the expert conclusion, and so the skeptics immediately began asking questions. What kind of confidential flat was it? Where were the bodyguards? Why wasn’t the flat and its heating systems thoroughly checked?

Tbilisi officials spun the death as an accident, although rumors spread in Georgia that in reality he was killed and later taken to the “confidential flat” to cover up his murder.

The investigation included American experts from the FBI, although by then the prime minister had been already buried.

The official version is known, but rumors and questions remain. Zhvania’s family, in particular his brother, accused high-ranking Georgian officials in hiding evidence and not telling the truth.

When the Georgian Dream coalition was coming to power it promised to re-investigate the case of Zhvania’s death in search of the truth.

After the coalition won the elections, it stepped-up its efforts in identifying the true circumstances surrounding the PM’s mysterious death.

The unknown details of Zhvania’s death create room for speculations and rumors. A very popular version is that Zhvania and Saakashvili who was president at that time, had a quarrel and the president threw an ash-tray into Zhvania’s face, hit him and he accidentally died, and then his body was taken to a “confidential flat,” while Usupov was killed later… However, others think that the prime minister really died in that flat because of the toxic gas.

One of the reasons Saakashvili has been summoned for interrogation on March 27 is the case of Zhvania’s death, because he might know some importent details about the case.

However bitter it might be, the Georgian population deserves to know the truth about this tragic event.