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More details on Tatukhashvili’s case

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 4
The Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia decided to publicly release the circumstances of the criminal proceedings in the investigation aimed at determining the cause of death of Shalva Tatukhashvili who was found dead on March 24. Tatukhashvili was a witness of a case against former officials.

Tatukhashvili worked at the Constitutional Security Department of the Ministry of Georgia in 2005-2012. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office claims that Tatukhashvili directly participated and was involved in the “Navtlughi Special Operation,” which was conducted by the Constitutional Security Department chaired by Data Akhalaia and resulted in the murder of three young civilians. Tatukhashvili was a witness of the case.

The Prosecutor’s Office stated that on 24 February 2014, an investigator from the Prosecutor’s Office contacted Shalva Tatukhashvili. That same day, Tavtukhashvili, accompanied by his brother, two defense counsels and friends appeared before the Tbilisi Prosecutor’s Office. Tapes seized from the surveillance cameras confirm that the witness was not alone and he voluntarily appeared before the Prosecutor’s Office. According to the Office, Tatukhashvili thoroughly described the details of the Navtlukhi Special Operation in the presence of two defense counsels.

“The witness exposed Data Akhalaia, the Former Director of the Constitutional Security Department, in the commission of a grave crime,” the Prosecutor’s Office stated, noting that the fact that the testimony was made in the presence of defense counsels is proved by the statement obtained from the mentioned defense counsels,” the Prosecutor’s Office statement reads.

The Prosecutor’s Office claims that in the course of the interrogation, Tatukashvili repeated that he might face certain problems from the family of Akhalaia and the people closely connected to them. Thus Tatukhashvili requested that the Prosecutor’s Office include him in the witness protection program in exchange for his testimony.

“Thus, he requested to change his identity particulars and the issuance of a new ID card. Initially, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to engage the person in the witness protection program. To this end, an undercover residential area has been allocated to the witness,” the Office statement reads.

However, according to the Prosecutor’s Office on 25 February, Tatukhashvili requested his bodyguards to transport him to his residence and he disappeared from this place under obscure circumstances. On March 18, Tatukhashvili was found at a night club and he gave testimony again that he was afraid of the Akahalaia family and was hiding in a forest.

“Having finished the interrogation, the video tape from the surveillance camera of the building of the Tbilisi Prosecutor’s Office depicts that the witness left the building absolutely safe and the witness being closely related to the investigator and prosecutor gives way to them and politely enables them to pass the doors of the building,” the Prosecutor’s Office stated.

The Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia considers that the death of the witness Tatukhashvili became a tool for political speculations in order to overlap the criminal cases of the Navtlukhi Special Operation and Sandro Girgvliani, who was killed during the time of the former government.

Tatukhasjvili’s family members and the UNM claim that the Prosecutor’s Office exercised pressure on the deceased, and there were signs of violation on Tatukhashvili’s body. The opposition even demanded the creation of a temporal parliamentary commission for the investigation the death. However, the majority did not support the initiative. Majority members wanted to postpone discussing the minority initiative until law-enforcement concluded their actions. Nevertheless, the minority did not agree on the suggestion. Finally, the initiative failed.

A member of the parliamentary minority, Chiora Taktakishvili, stated that the coalition MPs have become a “trumpet” of the Prosecutor’s Office. According to her, the statements and videos released by the office have caused even more question marks.

“If Tatukhashvili demanded protection, why was he hiding in a forest?” Taktakishvili said.

Coalition member Gia Volski states that some pressure was exercised on Tatukhashvili. However, according to him, the question is who exercised this pressure.

“Tatukhashvili was a witness of the prosecution. His death was not in the interest of the Prosecutor’s Office. Law enforcement must answer questions concerning his death,” Volski said.