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Was Grenade Attack On Georgian TV Station Prompted By Murder Documentary?

Placards go up in Tbilisi in April 2006 calling for authorities to "punish the murderers of Sandro Girgvliani."
Placards go up in Tbilisi in April 2006 calling for authorities to "punish the murderers of Sandro Girgvliani."
A hand grenade was thrown at the Tbilisi headquarters of the Maestro independent television channel during the night of May 24-25. The blast damaged the entrance door and smashed windows but caused no injuries, and the station continued broadcasting on May 25 as usual.

Maestro is one of very few Georgian television channels that continue to provide live coverage of the ongoing opposition protests in Tbilisi to demand President Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation. But parliament speaker David Bakradze on May 25 discounted any political motive behind the grenade attack and appealed to journalists not to engage in "speculation" about who might have been behind it. Reporters Without Borders warned, however, in a May 26 press release that "ruling out the possibility of a political motive is premature."

Maestro General Director Mamuka Ghlonti suggested on May 25 that the blast may have been intended to prevent the screening on the evening of May 25 of a documentary film about the January 2006 killing of banker Sandro Girgvliani. Girgvliani was found murdered just hours after he had an argument in a Tbilisi bar with three senior Interior Ministry officials, including press spokesman Guraam Donadze and Tako Salakaya, the wife of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili.

Four lower-level Interior Ministry staffers were arrested in connection with Girgvliani's killing and sentenced to between seven and eight years in jail; those sentences were slightly reduced on appeal. Their pardon and release in March occasioned heated protests among the Georgian opposition; two parliament deputies resigned from the pardons commission in protest.

Georgian human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari, who has repeatedly accused the Interior Ministry of violating the law and even of extrajudicial killings, called on May 25 for an independent investigation of the grenade attack on Maestro. He described it as not just a criminal offense, but "one more in a series of assaults on freedom of speech" in Georgia.

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.


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