Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Georgia: Sons Call For New Investigation Into Georgian President’s Death

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Sons Call For New Investigation Into Georgian President’s Death 

The three sons of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Soviet-era dissident and literary scholar who served as Georgia’s president from May 1991-January 1992, have appealed for a new investigation into the circumstances of his death in December 1993.

In a statement released on March 31, the 75th anniversary of his birth, Konstantine, Tsotne, and Giorgi Gamsakhurdia called on current President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, human rights ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili, and Prosecutor-General Giorgi Badashvili to resume the official investigation shelved in 2004.

Gamsakhurdia died on New Year’s Eve 1993 in a remote village in western Georgia, following an abortive comeback attempt several months earlier, at the height of the war in Abkhazia. At the time of his death, the Georgian authorities concluded that he had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. His widow, Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, the mother of Tsotne and Giorgi, claimed for her part he had been murdered.

Gamsakhurdia was buried in Grozny, where his family had settled after his ouster in January 1992 by warlords Tengiz Kitovani and Djaba Ioseliani. Following the destruction of much of that city during two successive wars, the precise location of his grave became unclear. It was finally found in March 2007, and an autopsy performed in Rostov-on-Don reportedly found two bullet holes in the skull. Gamsakhurdia’s remains were reinterred in Tbilisi with full honors shortly afterward.

Konstantine Gamsakhurdia nonetheless launched a campaign to clarify the circumstances of his father’s death. Following his election to parliament in 2008 as head of the opposition Tavisupleba (Liberty) party, a temporary parliamentary commission was set up in 2009, of which he was named chairman, to reassess the circumstances of the late president’s demise.

Sixteen months later, that commission concluded that the initial investigation ignored crucial evidence and the verdict of suicide was therefore open to question. It also established that the gun and bullet originally identified as having caused Gamsakhurdia’s death had disappeared. The commission submitted a 363-page report summarizing its findings to the Prosecutor-General’s Office, which failed, however, to act on them.

The parliamentary commission’s findings revived media speculation about whether Eduard Shevardnadze, who in 1993 was chairman of Georgia’s ruling State Council, played any role in Gamsakhurdia’s death. Shevardnadze had hailed the creation of the commission, predicting to the Russian daily “Vremya novostei” that it would lay such speculation to rest. But Shevardnadze nonetheless refused to submit to questioning by the commission, according to Caucasus Press on August 4, 2010.