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Georgian Prosecutor Orders Exhumation Of Former Prime Minister's Body

The late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in 2005.

The late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in 2005.

Georgian prosecutor Revaz Nadoy announced on September 30 that the body of former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania will be exhumed and tests conducted by international pathologists in order to clarify the cause of his death. He did not specify a time frame.

Zhvania was found dead in a rented apartment in Tbilisi together with a friend, Kvemo Kartli Deputy Governor Rasul Yusupov, early on February 3, 2005. The postmortem concluded that the two men died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning gas heater.

But Zhvania's brother, Giorgi, has consistently rejected that ruling, citing circumstantial evidence that the two men had died at another location.

In 2012, he openly accused three former senior government officials -- former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, former Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, and former Prosecutor-General Zurab Adeishvili -- of having moved the two bodies to the apartment where they were subsequently found and faked the evidence of asphyxiation. At the same time, Giorgi Zhvania stressed that he was not accusing the three men of murder.

In March 2014, photographic evidence surfaced that seemed to corroborate Giorgi Zhvania's doubts about the circumstances of his brother's death. Photos were uploaded to YouTube apparently taken at the time of the postmortem that -- according to current Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili -- showed that Zhvania had sustained head injuries prior to his death

Levan Chachua, the pathologist who had carried out the postmortem, was immediately arrested, as was Mikheil Dzadzamia, the bodyguard tasked with watching over Zhvania on the night he died. Both were subsequently charged with dereliction of duty and remanded in pretrial custody.

Dzadzamia is currently on trial together with the head of Zhvania's security detail, Koba Kharshiladze. He is pleading not guilty.

Nadoy, who is prosecutor at the trial, ruled on September 30 that five senior members of the former ruling United National Movement (ENM) should be summoned to testify. The five are: Merabishvili, who is currently serving three separate prison terms on charges of exceeding his official authority and using public funds to bribe voters; Baramidze; and ENM parliament deputies Goka Gabashvili; Mikheil Machavaviari; and Khatuna Gogorishvili.

Nadoy also said it had been established that the photos of the dead bodies of Zhvania and Usupov were uploaded to YouTube from Turkey, but he declined to specify the precise location, or the identity of "Hakim Pasha," who uploaded them.

Nadoy is not quoted as saying that Yusupov's body too will be exhumed. Yusupov's father Yashir Yusupov, who is convinced that his son was the target of "a planned killing of a political character," said last year that the bodies should be exhumed if it is impossible to clarify the cause of death by other means.

-- Liz Fuller

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.