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Death of a witness calls into question interrogation methods

by | Apr 1, 2014

shalva tatukhashvili

TBILISI, DFWatch–The lawyer and the family of a man who died after questioning claim the Prosecutor’s Office tortured him to produce false testimony and that he died as a result of torture.

The results of the autopsy will be known by the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Public Defender has started studying the case.

It has been a problem for many years that law enforcers have physically harassed people to force testimony out of them, using torture and psychological harassment, in some cases killing them.

There were many such cases while Saakashvili was president and they were described in reports by the ombudsman, but the government never admitted that it was taking place.

After the change of government, the new government is now criticized for the same thing but doesn’t admit it either.

There have been two cases after the change of government when people have died after being summoned to give testimony. In one case, a man was questioned at the police station and fell from the stairs, according to the official version. But the family claims he died as a result of torture.

Another person committed suicide after was called in for questioning and after signing a testimony implicating his friend. His family says it was false testimony and that was why he committed suicide.

Now the lawyer working for the deceased Shalva Tatukhashvili claims that he was forced to give false testimony against former Interior Ministry official Data Akhalaia, who chaired the so-called Kudi, after psychological and physical pressure and died as result of this pressure.

The lawyer says that the testimony was about a case involving Data Akhalaia. According to investigators, Akhalaia took part in a special operation a few years ago and he and other law enforcers killed a youth during the operation.

He says Tatukhashvili was kidnapped by police in order to get testimony about this case. His client was pressured to give false testimony that would be used to charge Data Akhalaia.

Tatukhashvili’s family appealed to the lawyer for help.

“Afterward, investigators forced Shalva Tatukhashvili to sign a false testimony against Davit Akhalaia in front of the cameras, in order to cover the traces of this crime and violence,” the lawyer says, adding that investigation took advantage of Tatukhashvili’s condition. He received a head trauma during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and has since had a progressive mental disorder.

Zakareishvili also says that after pressure and violence from investigators, Tatukhashvili psychological and emotional state worsened.

“Signs of mental disorder were so obvious that on March 19, 2014, I, Data Akhalaia’s defense lawyer, asked for a court-appointed psychiatric evaluation of him. Of course, investigators acknowledged that the results of this evaluation would confirm mental disorder of the ‘witness’ after which Shalva Tatukhashvili’s testimony, written as result of violence, would lose its power as evidence,” he explained.

Four days after the evaluation was appointed, Shalva Tatukhashvili died.

“I was attending the forensic medical examination and saw that he had traces of large haematoma in spine area and injuries in elbows, arms and left foot,” Zakareishvili remembers.

The Prosecutor’s Office responded by saying that it is absurd to say that Tatukhashvili’s body had injuries, and moreover, injuries that were the result of violence. The Prosecutor’s Office called on people to wait for the results of the autopsy.

Tatukhashvili’s death was reported March 25. The autopsy is not yet finished and there is no official explanation for his death.

Despite this, the National Movement claims that his death was the result of political pressure. They also recall that the current government has further postponed the enforcement of a new rule to only allow witnesses to be questioned in court. It should have come into force in January.

This issue was the subject of disagreement between the opposition and the government, but also between the president and the former prime minister, because the president planned to veto the bill.

On Monday, the ombudsman said he has started studying the case and has asked for information from government bodies.

He said the photos which were published about the case are shocking and thinks it is important to carry out an objective investigation.

 

http://www.ghn.ge/preview.php?w=430&h=0&file=upload/news/7BzoZTR6mv.jpg GHN photo



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