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Five years on, still no clarity over Lapankuri special operation

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 31
Five years have passed since the very controversial special operation conducted by the previous United National Movement leadership, with no clarity under the current Georgian Dream leadership despite new details and exhumations.

“The families of the people killed in the operation are waiting for the truth to be revealed. They have no access to the case materials and know nothing about the outcomes of the exhumations,” Georgia’s Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, said.

Nanuashvili stressed that an “indifferent attitude” to such cases is a violation of fundamental human rights and appeals to the relevant bodies to timely and effectively investigate the case.

On August 29 2012, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) stated that it was carrying out an anti-terrorist operation against an armed group close to the Lapankuri village in the Lopota gorge, not far from the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border.

Later on the same day, it announced that eleven armed individuals and three Georgian special service personnel were killed in a clash that was preceded by a hostage-taking incident.

After the initial denials, the Interior Ministry confirmed on September 2 that among the gunmen killed in the clash, two were Georgian citizens.

In his report released in 2013, Nanuashvili claimed that in February 2012, senior officials from the Georgian Interior Ministry contacted some of the “veterans of the Chechen war,” as well as representatives of the Chechen community currently living in Europe with the purpose of convincing them that the Georgian authorities were ready to provide armed militants a so-called "corridor” in the form of free passage for infiltrating Russia’s North Caucasus via Georgia.

The Public Defender stated that after the “invitation” about 120 Chechens and other natives of the North Caucasus arrived in Georgia. “Flats were rented for them in Tbilisi districts,” the report reads, adding that the Interior Ministry provided them with firearms and driving licenses.

The report read that militants were undergoing training outside Tbilisi at the Vaziani and Shavnabada bases. The Ombudsman stressed that members of the Georgian Special Forces killed at Lapankuri (Archil Chokeli and Solomon Tsiklauri), had been providing training to the group.

Nanauahsvili states that the training courses lasted too long, and this dissatisfied the militants. The militants demanded that the Georgians keep to their promises. However, the Interior Ministry refused and asked them to surrender their weapons. They refused and the Georgian side used force against them.

“According to the father of Aslan Margoshvili, one of the militant killed in the clash, his son was trained at the Shavnabada base and among his instructors were Chokheli and Tsiklauri,” Nanuashvili states.

The Public Defender stressed that the nine surviving militants left Georgia with the help of Georgian interior ministry representatives and went to Turkey via the vale border crossing point. Nanauashvili stated that these individuals currently reside in Syria.

A United National Movement representative, Giga Bokeria, stated then that Nanuashvili’s report coincided with the Russian version of the incident and lacked argumentation.

There are many other notorious cases which still remain uninvestigated and leave numerous question marks, as well as room for a private revenge.

Of course, there are situations when much evidence has already vanished and investigations are at a dead end, but when it comes to cases with a range of evidence and several witnesses, people - especially those directly affected - are still waiting for the truth.

Such cases indicate towards either a lack of evidence, or on a lack of professionalism and investigating staff.