TBILISI, DFWatch–A border guard working for the de facto authorities in Abkhazia, one of two Georgian breakaway regions, was Wednesday found guilty by the district court in Zugdidi of murdering a Georgian man at a border crossing checkpoint last May.
Border guard Rashid Kanji-Ogli was sentenced to 12 years in prison for intentional murder and illegal purchase, storage and carrying of firearms.
He was convicted in absentia, as he is in the breakaway territory, and outside of the reach of Georgian law enforcement.
Georgia’s Prosecutor Office on Wednesday said in a statement that it would appeal Zugdidi District Court’s verdict as it is not a decent punishment for the murder.
The fatal shooting of Giga Otkhozoria, a young Georgian man, on May 19 followed a after a verbal argument at the border crossing at Khurcha, a village near Zugdidi.
Witnesses said the conflict broke out at the border checkpoint, when Otkhozoria tried to deliver products for his relative’s funeral in Gali, an administrative entity in the south of Abkhazia with a predominantly ethnic Georgian population. The border guards demanded money from him and that led to a quarrel.
The video (18+) from a surveillance camera shows how four men in uniform assault a young man in civilian clothes. One of them can be seen punching and then kicking the victim, while another guard approach him apparently with a pistol and shoots at him point-blank. The shooter in the video is Rashid Kanji-Ogli, according to investigators.
Otkhozoria (30) was an internal refugee from Abkhazia who was living with his family in a rented apartment in the town of Zugdidi. He left behind a wife and two small children.
The cold-blooded murder sparked a massive public outrage in Georgia.
Immediately after the deadly incident, Georgia’s Prosecutor General’s Office brought charges against Kanji-Ogli under Article 108 (premeditated murder) and Article 236 (illegal purchase, storage and carrying of firearms) of the Criminal Code.
Georgian authorities demanded that Abkhazian officials hand over Otkhozoria to the Georgian side, that he can face Georgian justice. But Abkhazian part refused his extradition, instead the separatist military court ordered his arrest on June 23. Georgian Interior and Justice Ministers announced that Tbilisi was seeking INTERPOL’s red notice for Kanji-Ogli.
Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili said last month that work is underway with INTERPOL to place Rashid Kanji-Ogli on the organization’s wanted list.
INTERPOL’s press office told DFWatch by email that if the organization is asked to send out a red alert notice in response to an arrest warrant, the information will be sent to all 190 member countries and will appear on the Interpol website.
“If no red notice is published, this is either because one has not been requested or issued for that person, or the requesting country has asked that it not be publicized,” INTERPOL press office wrote.
Otkhozoria’s murder was the top issue discussed at the resumed Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings, which was suspended four years ago when statements made by the head of EU’s observer mission led to a boycott by the Abkhaz side.