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„Alive Dead“ and Promoted Prosecutor

„Alive Dead“ and Promoted ProsecutorWhen National Movement was in power, Prosecutor Zurab Javakhishvili at the Kakheti regional prosecutor’s office blamed Aleksi Bakhutov in the premeditated murder of Lasha Chopikashvili. Investigation obtained Bakhutov’s confession statement as a result of torture. Telavi district court sentenced Bakhutov to six-year-imprisonment. Three more people were arrested in this case. Later Chopikashvili was found alive but Bakhutov was not released. Prosecutor requested to leave him in prison for one year. After the 2012 Parliamentary Election prosecutor Javakhishvili was promoted.

 

Bakhutov’s Case

 

On June 27, 2007 Kakheti region police department launched preliminary investigation into the murder of Lasha Chopikashvili without due caution; the crime is punishable under Article 116 of the Criminal Code of Georgia and Aleksi Bakhutov was arrested as an accused for that crime.

During preliminary investigation, Lasha Chopikashvili’s murder without due caution was changed into premeditated murder punishable under Article 108 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. On August 24, prosecutor Zurab Javakhishvili of the Kakheti regional prosecutor’s office solicited to the Telavi District Court to pass guilty verdict on the accused Bakhutov without essential hearing of the criminal case. The solicitation was upheld and Aleksi Bakhutov was sent to prison for 6 years.

Aslan Gauarashvili, Aleksi Tsotsiashvili and Vepkho Khachoshvili were convicted for hiding the murder fact of Lasha Chopikashvili from law enforcement bodies and for participation in the crime. The court sentenced them to two-month pretrial detention.

On October 19, Public Defender of Georgia stated that convicted Aleksi Bakhutov had applied to his office. According to the applicant, Lasha Chopikashvili, whose murder he was charged for, is alive and lives peacefully in his house in Jugaani village. Bakhutov noted in his application that he and his stepson I. Tsitsishvili had confessed murder of Chopikashvili as a result of torture and degrading treatment. Now he serves his term in Prison # 5.

Public Defender studied Aleksi Bakhutov’s application; his representatives met and conversed with the convicted person and his alleged victim – Lasha Chopikashvili.

It is noteworthy that on November 21, 2007 Telavi District Court discussed the case of Aslan Gauarashvili, Aleksi Tsotsiashvili and Vepkhia Khachoshvili who were accused of hiding the body of Lasha Chopikashvili and assisting Bakhutov in the crime. At that time, both prosecutor’s office and court were aware that “dead” Chopikashvili had arrived in the village but they still demanded Aslan Gauarashvili, Aleksi Tsotsiashvili and Vepkhvia Khachoshvili to confess participation in the crime; in exchange of that law enforcement bodies promised them freedom.

On November 22, 2007 prosecutor Zurab Javakhishvili and the accused signed plea-agreement. On the same day, prosecutor appealed to the Telavi district court to uphold the solicitations and the latter approved them. However, protocols and solicitations drawn up by the prosecutor do not prove the accused people had committed crime. Consequently, it is obscure what Khachoshvili, Tsotsiashvili and Gauarashvili confessed. Whilst Article 679 - II' of the Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia claims that solicitation document on passing verdict without essential discussion shall contain formulation of the accusation – that is description of place, time, manner or instrument of committing crime, as well as result of the crime; besides that, Article 679' Part II – a of the Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia claims that before passing verdict the court shall get convinced that a) the accused is fully aware of the content of the crime he is accused of.

During the trial, prosecutor said he had been requesting Guarashvili, Tsotsiashvili and Khachoshvili to plead guilty and sign plea-agreement for almost two months. It is noteworthy that process participants got confused with the appearance of the ombudsman’s representatives but despite that the judge conducted the trial and asked general questions to witnesses; finally the trial finished with guilty verdict.

On November 22, 2007 based on the judgment of the Telavi district court, a plea-agreement was signed and the accused were released from the courtroom. They clarified with the Public Defender’s representatives that although they had not committed the crime, they do not hope for fair trial and had to plead guilty in the crime they had not committed.

Explanation letters and factual circumstances of the case show that Aleksi Bakhutov and his stepson Irakli Tsitsishvili were subjected to torture and were threatened with torture by the officers of Napareuli police unit and Kakheti regional department in order to confess murder of Lasha Chopikashvili or release any information with regard to the crime.

Since Lasha Chopikashvili, declared dead by the charge bill and court verdict, is alive and safe, it is clear that forced testimonies made during preliminary investigation and founding Gauarashvili, Tsotsiashvili and Khachoshvili to be participants of the crime, were result of severe physical and moral oppression by police officers that might have been the only chance for Bakhutov and his stepson to stay alive.

Protocols of the ombudsman’s representatives, who examined the convicted person in Kvareli district temporary detention setting, also proved that Aleksi Bakhutov had injuries on the body. The registry of the detention setting states that Aleksi Bakhutov, detained on June 27, 2007, was delivered to the preliminary detention setting at 23:10 pm and had following injuries: bruise on his left eye, scratch on the nose and on the left shoulder; when Bakhutov was delivered to Tbilisi Prison # 5 on June 29, 2007 he had bruises on his left eye, right shoulder and hip; according to the recordings in the registry, Bakhutov declared he had received the injuries in the police office.

Case Details

 

According to Lasha Chopikashvili, on June 15, 2007 he was at Natan Zatiashvili’s farm where he had a slight argument with Aleksi Bakhutov. Later at home, Aleksi Bakhutov called him out and asked for a cigarette. Chopikashvili took him the cigarette to the Stori River and then returned home; on his way back he lost conscious. Recovering, he found himself wet and lying on the river bank and then returned home. At 4:00 am Lasha Chopikashvili went to work to so-called Natsidnari area where he worked as a pasture for certain Iznauri.

On September 20, Lasha Chopikashvili arrived in Telavi where he met an acquaintance – certain Arabuli, who told him people thought he was dead and even buried him. Several days later, three police officers from Telavi visited him at home and made to get into the car by force. The law enforcement officers inquired about the June 15 incident between Chopikashvili and Aleksi Bakhutov. Next day, police officers again visited Chopikashvili and took him to Telavi hospital; his blood was tested and doctor examined him; the examination showed that he had injured his neck bone.

Aleksi Bakhutov clarified that on June 27, 2007 criminal police officers detained him in Natan Zatiashvili’s farm in Pshaveli village; they threatened him with gun and physical assault to confess where he had buried Lasha Chopikashvili. Police officer Gocha (nickname Tava) from Napareuli police unit threatened him with death. Bakhutov’s stepson Irakli Tsitsishvili was also taken to Napareuli police office, where he was beaten to name the whereabouts of Lasha Chopikashvili’s body. At about 11:00 pm Tsitsishvili got in touch with his stepfather and asked meeting in the farm. Having arrived at the place, several police officers mobilized there handcuffed and beat Bakhutov. His wife Indira Izoria was also there; police officer Gocha shot in her direction several times. Later, Aleksi Bakhutov and his stepson were taken to Napareuli police office, where their physical assault continued. As a result of torture, Irakli Tsitsishvili said that his stepfather had killed Lasha Chopikashvili and he had assisted him in hiding the body. As a result of harassment and torture Aleksi Bakhutov also confessed the murder. Police officers Gocha (Tava) and Nugzar Zatiashvili from Napareuli village police office compelled Aleksi Bakhutov through inhuman treatment to blame his allies Aslan Gauarashvili, Aleksi Tsotsiashvili and Vepkho Khachoshvili in the participation of the crime. After they admitted the crime, Bakhutov was taken to the scene of crime where the latter showed the scene of murder to police officers. Telavi district police officers video-recorded this fact. Since they could not find Chopikashvili’s body, police officers continued physical assault of Aleksi Bakhutov and Irakli Tsitsishvili to say the exact place where the body was hidden. Bakhutov could not endure the torture and named different places. During the torture a police officer kicked him in the bally, put firearm on the face and threatened him; Nugzar Zatiashvili was hitting beating him in the neck. Finally law enforcement officers “concluded” that the “murderer” had thrown the body in the River Stori (which is not deep enough to hide the body in, as the convicted claimed). Early in October of 2007, Aleksi Bakhutov learned from the investigator and lawyer that Lasha Chopikashvili was alive and he had been working in the mountains as a pasture. Investigator Z. Tsiklauri also informed him that Chopikashvili had made a testimony against him and claimed that Bakhutov had hit him with a club after what he had fallen in the river; having recovered he left village. The convicted claims the investigator had promised him the murder charge would be changed into another crime though Bakhutov still does not know how the prosecutor’s office will qualify the crime after Chopikashvili appeared alive.

Irakli Tsitsishvili clarified that on June 13, 2007 he was together with L. Chopikashvili and his stepfather at Natan Zatiashvili’s farm. Those two persons had an argument and Bakhutov had slapped Chopikashvili. Irakli Tsitsishvili reconciled them and the men continued drinking in the field. Later, Chopikashvili returned to the farm and A. Bakhutov stayed in the field because he was very drunk. Tsitsishvili said that next day, at about 2:00 pm he met Chopikashvili and offered him to go to have a swim in the river but the latter refused. Tsitsishvili had not seen Chopikashvili since then. On June 18, 2007 police officer Tava met Tsitsishvili together with two police officers and asked him and his stepfather to accompany them to the Napareuli police office for interrogation. Having arrived there, Tsitsishvili was taken into the chief police officer’s room where law enforcement officers started questioning him about the incident between Bakhutov and Chopikashvili. Napareuli police officer Gocha Nogashvili was particularly active when asking questions and ruthlessly beat him together with other police officers during several hours to make him confess how his stepfather had accidentally killed L. Chopikashvili. They also demanded him to blame any person, who generally breached the law in the village, in the murder and instead they promised Tsitsishvili to release him and his stepfather. Two hours later they were released. On June 27, 2007 Gocha Nogashvili again visited Tsitsishvili at Zatiashvili’s farm. Law enforcement officers took Bakhutov by car and brought him back one hour later and pushed him out of the car. They told Tsitsishvili Aleksi Bakhutov’s nephew had hidden Chopikashvili in Kisiskhevi village and demanded him to accompany them there. Irakli Tsitsishvili tried to explain to police officers that it was not true but they abused him and took to the Napareuli village police office. There he was beaten by rubber truncheons in the presence of the chief police officer. After torture and inhuman treatment, he was taken to Kisiskhevi where they met his stepfather’s nephew Zaur Bakhutov, who of course denied Chopikashvili’s presence in his house; later they returned to Napareuli police office where they had already brought Aleksi Bakhutov; Gocha Nogashvili was ruthlessly beating him and demanded him to confess the location of Chopikashvili’s body. Irakli Tsitsishvili claims Gocha Nogashvili continued his beating by truncheon but his stepfather asked police officers to stop beating his stepson and promised to confess everything. On June 27, 2007, when being interrogated as a witness, Irakli Tsitsishvili said “we took L. Chopikashvili’s body and buried about 700-800 meters away from ponds and I can show you the place.” On the same day, the detainee was left in the Napareuli police office and next day he was taken to Pshaveli village to estimate the place where dead Chopikashvili was buried. Since they could not find the body, police officers continued their beating. Later, the detainees were taken to Telavi based Regional Police Department. Aslan Gauarashvili and Vepkho Khachoshvili from Jugaani village were there arrested with regard to Chopikashvili’s murder. In the evening of June 28, Irakli Tsitsishvili was set free, but Aleksi Bakhutov, Aslan Gauarashvili, Vepkho Khachoshvili and Aleksi Tsotsiashvili stayed in the department. When Bakhutov was sentenced to two-month pretrial detention, Gocha Nogashvili called Tsitsishvili and warned against complaining about physical assault and added police officers were watching him. Irakli Tsitsishvili said that in September Gocha Nogashvili visited him together with two strange police officers who compelled him to follow to certain Duru’s farm in Ruispiri village to work there without reimbursement. Irakli Tsitsishvili worked there only three days and then ran away and returned to his old working place. So, Irakli Tsitsishvili became a victim of labor trafficking during three days that is crime punishable under the Criminal Code of Georgia.

Early in October, police officers took Tsitsishvili to Telavi district prosecutor’s office, where he met Lasha Chopikashvili; the later was questioned about his whereabouts during all this time and what had happened on June 15. Chopikashvili tried to convince the law enforcement officers that nobody had harassed him and he had gone to pasture according to his own decision. Next day, Lasha Chopikashvili and Irakli Tsitsishvili were again summoned to the prosecutor’s office, where Chopikashvili suddenly declared that Aleksi Bakhutov had hit a club to him and left him alone unconscious. Irakli Tsitsishvili said Gocha Nogashivli met him later, abused him and warned not to say anything against him; unless he obeyed his demands, Nogashvili threatened him with death. Irakli Tsitsishvili noted that he still suffers from pains in his right eye since he was beaten and tortured by police officers. He cannot visit a doctor because he cannot pay for the treatment and because police officers had forbidden him to leave the village. A. Bakhutov’s wife Indira Izoria confirmed the statements of her husband and son and claims that she had also made same testimony to the investigator who had made her to sign empty paper. Aleksi Tsotsiashvili clarified that on June 27, 2007 he was questioned with regard to Chopikashvili’s murder in the regional police department in Telavi. He had clarified to the investigator that he had been in Kvareli together with his father’s friend Avto Datulashvili from June 11 to June 18 so he could not have any connection with the crime. Regardless the evidence, the police officers clarified to him that his statement had no value because Aleksi Bakhutov and Irakli Tsitsishvili had blamed him in assisting them to hide Chopikashvili’s body. As a result of these investigation procedures, Aleksi Tsotsiashvili was arrested and taken to Kvareli temporary detention setting where he met Aleksi Bakhutov. The latter had injuries and confessed to him that as a result of physical assault he had to blame him, Aslan Gauarashvili and Vepkho Khachoshvili in the crime as police officers had demanded him. According to Aslan Gauarashvili and Vepkhia Khachoshvili’s statements, on June 27, 2007 they were taken to police office and blamed in hiding Lasha Chopikashvili’s body. Police officers also showed them a video-recording of Aleksi Bakhutov’s different statements about Chopikashvili’s murder. On the same evening, Aslan Gauarashvili met Aleksi Bakhutov on the ground floor of the regional police department in Telavi, who was ruthlessly beaten and had injuries on the body. Indira Izoria was also there who informed Aleksi Tsotsiashvili, Aslan Gauarashvili and Vepkhvia Khachoshvili about the reason why Aleksi Bakhutov and Irakli Tsitsishvili had blamed them in the crime. Gauarashvili and Khachoshvili were sent to two-month pretrial detention and they were taken to the prison # 5. Khachoshvili claims that lawyer Leila Garsevanishvili was requesting him to confess the crime or otherwise the court would have judged him for uncommitted crime.”

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