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Why was Vazagashvili killed?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 23
Iuri Vazagashvili, who was killed by an explosion of a bomb planted next to his son’s grave on January 20, should have met a key witness in his son Zurab Vazagashvili’s murder case when back from the village the same evening.

Vazagashvili, who had been fighting to prove his son’s innocence since 2006, told the media about the witness two days before his death.

“He is abroad now, I was very surprised when he called me, he asked me to forgive him, as 9 years ago he was made to give a false testimony concerning the case,” Vazagashvili said.

Journalists from Channel 2 have stated that when he would return from the village, Vazagashvili, together with the key witness, were going to record an interview.

“Now it’s impossible to record the interview, uncover the truth or guess who the witness was, as only Iuri knew his whereabouts and contact information,” journalist Lia Toklikishvili says.

“We called Iuri 30 minutes before his death and he confirmed we had a meeting at 8 o’clock,” Toklikishvili says.

Toklikishvili stated that Vazagashvili told them that the majority of officials who had committed crimes regarding his son still worked in high positions at the law enforcement institutions.

Iuri Vazagashvili himself spoke about the officials in his last press conference, where he said that the current head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Tchikaidze “protected” the individuals involved in this scandalous case.

Meanwhile, majority MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili says that he knew the name of the witness Vakagashvili spoke about and stated that the witness had already been questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office.

“I know where the man is and what information he has. In the case if somebody really protected the murderers of Zurab Vazagashvili, they must be dismissed and punished,” Kutsnashvili said.

Family Lawyer of the Vazagashvili Lia Chkadua claims that there were 4 new witnesses in the Vazagashvili case and the new evidence would have put the responsibility on several current high-ranking officials.

“Some of the witnesses were not in Georgia. Once the existence of the witnesses were discovered, threatening phone calls started on Iuri Vazagashvili’s phone,” Chkadua says.

The prime minister, president, parliament chair and diplomatic corps representatives have appealed for an urgent and in-depth investigation into the Vazagashvili cases.

Parliament Chair Davit Usupashvili met with the Chief Prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili and discussed the issue. Badashvili has stressed that finalizing and opening the cases were a ‘top priority’.

It has also been stated that a closed sitting of the Parliament’s Legal Committee might take place, where the relevant bodies will provide information concerning the cases to the MPs.

In his interview for Imedi TV, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze stated that 30 witnesses have already been questioned concerning the Iuri Vazagashvili’s case.

“One thing is obvious, the shell was installed on the grave by a professional, not by an ordinary amateur individual. I cannot provide detailed information because of confidentiality issues,” Shotadze said.

He stated that many new details were revealed in Zurab Vazagashvili’s case that were totally fabricated under the previous government.

“The investigation is in the final phase and Iuri Vazagashvili and his family were informed about the new details,” Shotadze says.

“All who are involved in the criminal cases, former or current officials, will be strictly punished,” Shotadze said.

Head of the opposition Free Democrats Irakli Alasania stated that the murder case might result in very negative consequences for the country. “The aim of the murder is to create a feeling of instability in the country. The Prosecutor’s Office must open the case soon to avoid these negative consequences,” Alasania said. Member of the opposition United National Movement Nugzar Tsiklauri called the murder a ‘terrorist attack’ and said that the current government was unable to investigate it in a timely fashion.

Zurab Vazagashvili and Aleksandre Khubulov were killed by the police, who were armed with machine guns, while driving in a car in central Tbilisi on May 2, 2006. Police claimed they had to respond with fire only after shots were fired from inside the car. But an alternate ballistic investigation commissioned at the time by the Public Defender’s Office found that no shots had been fired from the car. In April 2007, the authorities closed the investigation into allegations that police used excessive force. However, the Vazagashvili family continued to accuse the authorities of fabricating evidence and various wrongdoing in the case. In 2007 the family also took the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

The authorities reopened the investigation after the change of government in late 2012, and it is still ongoing.