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Police Detains 6 at a Rally in Central Tbilisi over Teenagers’ Murder Case

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, June 12
The Georgian law enforcers detained 6 people at a rally in Central Tbilisi on Monday, as the protesters, demanding the resignation of Interior and Justice ministers, blocked the road and tried to set up tents on the area used by cars.

The detention is related to the high-profile murder case of two teenage boys in central Tbilisi last year and the failure of the court to say who killed one of the victims David Saralidze.

One of the detainees was Zviad Kuprava, the man who organized the rallies together with the killed teenager’s father Zaza Saralidze, who said his detention was “politically motivated.”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a special statement that the individuals blocked the road when it was not necessary and disobeyed the lawful order of law enforcers.

The ministry also said that out of the six detainees, one turned out to be wanted, while another had a conditional sentence.

Over the past several days police detained two persons -Mirza Subeliani, former employee of the Prosecutor’s Office or Georgia, for not reporting the crime and LevanMorchadze- for influencing the witnesses.

Subeliani pleaded guilty, while Morchadze says that his detention was absurd.

At the rally on June 10 Zaza Saralidze demanded the punishment of perpetrators and the resignation of Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia and of the Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani.

Saralidze says that none of the arrested teenagers has killed his son.

He claims that the killer of his son is Mikheil Kalandia, a teenager who has not yet been detained.

Saralidze says that Kalandia is Subeliani’s relative and the man, together with Morchadze, made an influence on the case and hindered fair investigation.

Zaza Saralidze said that the Ministry of Internal Affairs continues to deceive him.

"Morchadze was not the discovery of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The prosecutors knew him well and the government tries to cover up Kalandia's case. As for Subeliani, he should have been arrested from the very first day. Is not the Prosecutor’s Office to be blamed of this? Now I demand resignation of Gakharia, as he does not care about me. He continues to deceive me. I also demand the resignation of the Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani,” said Saralidze.

The same day, Kuprava, former member of the United National Movement opposition, wrote on his facebook page that Subeliani’s detention meant nothing as the main aim of the rallies on Rustaveli Avenue is the “changing of government.”

The Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria explained that the protesters have the right to block the road when there is not enough space for them.

“I understand the personal emotions of Mr. Zaza or any other demonstrator, but it is necessary the protest to be lawful. Blocking of the road will only affect the people who daily moves there”, - said Lomjaria.

Saralidze who launched the rallies with the demand of fair investigation of the murder case in April this year, gave the government time until June 10 to take genuine steps to detain offenders.

On June 9 Subeliani was detained. However, Saralidze said that the man should not have been charged and sent to pre-trial detention only for not reporting the crime, as he “created serious obstacles to investigation.”

On June 10 Saralidze joined the rally with the involvement of opposition political parties in front of the Parliament Building in Tbilisi, with the slogan “Don’t Kill Me”, demanded the resignation of state officials.

What the case is about?

Two 16-year-old boys were stabbed to death in a school brawl in Tbilisi on December 1, 2017.

The Prosecutor’s Office charged two teenagers with ‘premeditated murder of an underage person’, and three others- for not reporting the crime.

Davit Saralidze died in hospital due to multiple wounds in his back. Levan Datunashvili died immediately.

One of the charged teenagers was detained on December 2, while the other one, who had gone into hiding, surrendered on December 4.

On December 3, the Prosecutor’s Office admitted that the father of one of the students involved in the fight was employed by the Prosecutor’s Office.

They said the employee, Mirza Subeliani, had worked in the Department of Human Resources since 2014.

Subeliani resigned on the next day. However, Saralidze says that the man hindered the investigation process.

On June 1, 2018 the Tbilisi City Court announced its verdict.

One of the detainees was found guilty for premeditated murder of one of the victims-Levan Dadunashvili, while another detainee was found guilty for attempted murder of another victim-David Saralidze.

On the next day the teenager accused of the premeditated murder was sentenced to 14 years in prison. However, as he is a teenager, his sentence was decreased to 10 years and six months. Another detainee was sentenced to 13 years in prison and his sentence was decreased to 9 years and nine months.

The court failed to say who killed Saralidze.

Zaza Saralidze stated that the court verdict “proved” that there is someone else in the case, an alleged killer, who still walks free.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Saralidze and his supporters went to the building of Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office and demanded the resignation of the Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze.

The Chief Prosecutor announced about the resignation the same day, claiming that his body has done its utmost for the fair investigation of the case.

The same evening more people gathered for the rally. Saralidze and his main ally in the process, Kuprava, who were initially demanding the fair investigation of the case, also demanded the “change of the regime.”

The Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili arrived at the rally. Despite an appeal of Saralidze to people to listen to Kvirikashvili, some threw bottles at him and he had to leave the rally.

Shortly the PM stated that the case would be re-investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and not by the Prosecutor’s Office.

A parliamentary commission has also been established, with the leadership of the opposition, to investigate the crime.

The PM said that his government was “very much interested” in investigation of the case and stated that unlike the United National Movement leadership, the Georgian Dream government cared about the people and never avoided to meet and listen to them.

Saralidze met with the prime minister on June 6 and said after the meeting that he suspended rallies until June 10 to see the steps by the government.

The Georgian Dream ruling party members say that the United National Movement opposition is trying to use Saralidze’s tragedy for its political interests, while the opposition says the people showed protest to the injustice encouraged by the authorities.