TBILISI, DFWatch–Three persons have been placed in pre-trial detention for two months pending trial, after a suspicious death of a prisoner.
The prisoner, Levan Kortava, died May 23 at the prison hospital after being moved there from Geguti prison, a village in western Georgia.
There are claims that Kortava was tortured and murdered. Relatives of the dead demanded the resignation of the head of the prison, Malkhaz Sinauradze, who was fired after incident.
The case was only opened on August 3 as three people were charged with murder.
The City Court in Kutaisi on Monday agreed with the Prosecutor’s Office and placed the three suspects in preliminary detention: Alexandre Babunashvili, inspector and controller of No 14 prison, Giga Kokhodze, inspector of the safety department at the same prison, both accused of negligence, and Tengiz Nasareia, inspector of the safety department, who is charged with falsifying evidence in a criminal case.
During the court hearing, the prosecutor said that the investigation continues and they have enough evidence to convict all six persons involved in the beating which resulted in the death of Kortava.
The remaining suspects are prisoners Lasha Kvantaliani, Shota Sinauridze, Solomon Dashniani, Gela Uskhvani, Teimuraz Gureshidze, Nugzar Bachuadze and former prisoner Giorgi Shemazashvili. They are charged under section 117 of the criminal code, which is about attacking in a group a helpless person for a purpose and which caused death.
On May 23, the Prison Ministry’s press office wrote that Kortava died as a result of an accident. The ministry’s statement said that he slipped in the stairs and hit his head and received a number of other injuries. The cause of death was given as head trauma, but the autopsy would give a definite answer.
The same day, the ministry changed its statement and wrote that the prisoner received injuries during a conflict with other prisoners and was injured in the head. After Kortava’s death, the prison director was fired.
May 28, employees at Geguti prison were fired, including the deputy director, the second deputy director, the head of the legal department and the head of the security department.
Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani said Monday that the investigation must determine whether so-called thieves-in-law were involved in the murder of Kortava.
“The investigation is still effective and it will be defined whether officials or other prisoners were involved in it too,” she said.
Relatives of Kortava are pessimistic about the prospects of finding the truth. They think other prison employees must also be detained for negligence, as they didn’t notice or interrupt when Kortava was beaten.
“Didn’t anyone hear anything?” his aunt Khatuna Kortava asked. She thinks a crime is being hidden. “I don’t want to think that innocent people were detained, but I think those who ordered the murder aren’t seen now, but if you have strong arguments, let me believe in it.”