TBILISI, DFWatch–At least thirty people have so far been questioned about the death of Yuri Vazagashvili, father of a victim of a controversial police operation in 2006.
Zurab Vazagashvili’s death nearly nine years ago became a symbol of the heavy-handed police methods during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency. His father Yuri, who campaigned for justice for his son, died from an explosion on the son’s grave on Tuesday.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the team of investigators handling the case has questioned about 30 witnesses. Investigators have also inspected the place of the explosion, as well as the victim’s car.
The Prosecutor’s Office wrote in a statement Thursday that the preliminary assumption is that the cause of death was injuries caused by an explosion, but the office refrains from divulging more details until the forensic examination is completed.
Even though the forensic work is not yet finished, some have already launched theories about the cause of death. Zaza Altunashvili, an independent court expert, told journalists that the explosive device which was on the grave of Zurab Altunashvili, was a device used for military purposes.
He said he has collected many pieces of evidence which provide a basis for determining under what conditions Yuri Vazagashvili died. Altunashvili does not believe the device was triggered from a distance by remote control.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze said on Wednesday that no conclusions need to be drawn about the death of Vazagashvili until the investigation is finished.
“Currently, it seems that the murder was planned on a very professional level. When we speak of a homicide of a person with an explosive device, of course, an ordinary person and ordinary citizens wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “The one who did it, no matter if a former official, current official, any person who committed the crime, will be severely punished.”
January 20, Yuri Vazagashvili, father of Zurab Vazagashvili, was attending the funeral of a neighbor in the village Karapila, near Kaspi, 50 km west of the capital. As usual, he went to visit the grave of his son, and that was where the explosion took place.
The investigation is conducted on the basis of section 109 of the Criminal Code, about premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances.
Zurab Vazagashvili, was killed May 2, 2006 in Tbilisi during a special operation ‘against criminals suspected of armed robbery’, according to authorities at the time. Also Alexandre Khbulov died in the shooting.
But the official version was immediately doubted by many, and the shooting became one of the cases highlighted during protest in the final years of the Saakashvili regime.