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Tragedy of the Zerekidzes – “Stop Serial Murders!”

23.08.2011

230 Pills of Subutex “Found” on Passengers Traveling from Strasbourg

Khatuna Paichadze, “Kviris Palitra”

Prisoner Mamuka Zerekidze died in Rustavi Prison # 6 on August 16. The prison administration told the family he died of electroshock. The Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid has not released any official versions about Zerekidze’s death yet.

This institution has invented a magic phrase – “investigation is going on”- to respond to questions about any problematic issues. The dead person had injuries on the face and throat. Expertise has not finished yet so it is early to make any conclusions; so Georgian Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi is waiting for the investigation and expertise results. He thinks the fact that prisoner died of electroshock in custody casts many questions. Society doubts it cannot be a real reason for Zerekidze’s death.

Family members refused to speak about the fact. Apparently, the widow of Mamuka Zerekidze, Lika Zerekidze is worried about her son (the society should remember the famous case of juvenile Giorgi Zerekidze who was convicted for the attempted murder).

Georgian society first heard about Mamuka Zerekidze in summer of 2006 when his son Giorgi Zerekidze was arrested. The investigation blamed 14-year-old boy for the attempted murder, robbery and hooliganism. The court imposed ten-year-imprisonment on the juvenile. The Zerekidzes sent application to the Strasbourg Court. Later, the father Mamuka Zerekidze was detained for drug-dealing and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Special Operative Department of the Georgian MIA detained Mamuka Zerekidze on March 24, 2010 when he got off the plane at the Tbilisi International Airport. They discovered a large amount of narcotic substance – 230 pills of Subutex in his luggage. Later, Mamuka Zerekidze confessed in front of TV-Cameras that he had purchased 230 pills of Subutex in Paris for 11.050 Euro. In his confession Zerekidze claimed that he had drugs in his trousers pocket but when boarding the plane, he put them in the handbag.

Nana Kakabadze, “Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights”: “I was keeping this story in secret for a long time but now I should break silence. The family of Zerekidzes does not want to speak about the problem and I do not know how they will accept my decision. When Giorgi Zerekidze was detained, the family decided to fight for justice. Giorgi Zerekidze had conflict with a distributor in a shop and scratched him by a pocket knife; the victim was not wounded at all so Zerekidze did not commit the crime graver than the murderers of Girgvliani [who were sentenced only to 4-year-imprisonment]. I would like to remind the society that President Saakashvili had announced the Zero Tolerance short time before Zerekidze had incident. So he was enmeshed and relatively judged under the strictest article; as a result a strict punishment was imposed on him. This case was very famous – entire political specter and international organizations were concerned about it. Nevertheless, the government did not retreat and Giorgi Zerekidze remained in the prison; with the support of international organizations only several years were discharged from his sentence.

His family sent application to the Strasbourg Court and their tragedy started since then: they were demanded to withdraw the suit from the Strasbourg Court or threatened them their son will not leave prison alive. Clergymen also were interested in this case together with governmental officials. In exchange of cancelled application, law enforcement officials promised to release Giorgi from prison. Finally, their relative, who was close to the government, told the family members: “You seem to struggle only for money and do not care about Giorgi’s freedom at all. What is more important for you? Just take your application back and he will be free.”

In short, the family could not resist the oppression and requested their application back from the Court. Their application was enough for the European Court to drop investigation process but the government of Georgia had other intentions. They told the Zerekidzes their request was not enough and they should have gone to Strasbourg personally and take the suit back in order to get sure that court stopped all procedures. The Zerekidzes arrived in Strasbourg and on their way back the law enforcement officers “discovered” 230 pills of Subutex in their luggage. Lika Zerekidze was holding a bag where she had two souvenirs bought in the Duty Free shops. Subutex was planted in that bag. Before arriving in Tbilisi, the passengers passed through two airports and crossed borders of two countries but nobody detected 230 pills of Subutex in their luggage except Georgian SOD officers?!

When Mamuka Zerekidze saw his wife could have been imprisoned for drug-dealing, he decided to blame himself in the crime. He agreed to make confession in front of TV-Cameras and said he had purchased narcotics in Paris. In exchange of his confession, Lika Zerekidze was not sent to prison but she was judged and sentenced to conditional sentence. She is still probationer.

Mamuka Zerekidze saved his wife from prison but he was judged for drug purchase-possession-transportation and sentenced to life-imprisonment. Afterwards, Lika Zerekidze stopped her struggle for justice thinking it was useless; consequently, she did not contact anybody about this problem. In December of 2010, Giorgi Zerekidze was released from prison after he finished his term. But two month later, he was provoked and sent back to prison for 8-year sentence. And Mamuka Zerekidze was killed! I am sure in it.

By the way, Giorgi Zerekidze took national exams in prison. You might remember the statement of the government– the prisoners, who will pass national exams, will be released from prison. Giorgi Zerekidze passed exams and entered the university but the government’s promise did not work for him. Many international organizations got interested in this case and the reputation of the Georgian government was somehow degraded. Apparently, the authority decided to punish and revenge the family, which so much “degraded” the government.”

According to the reliable source, the Zerekidzes intended to reapply to the Strasbourg Court but since Mamuka Zerekidze died in prison in suspicious circumstances, it is difficult to say what Lika Zerekidze will do because now she has to worry about her son too.

Civil Ombudsman Irina Putkaradze said it will not be easy to estimate the real reasons of Mamuka Zerekidze’s death.

Irina Putkaradze: “I doubt the family will refrain from alternative expertise. Though, the dead person had injuries on the nose and temple, and a wound on the throat.”

Kakha Kukava, Conservative Party: “Physical assault and torture of prisoners in penitentiary institutions is ordinary fact. If you informally ask Kalmakhelidze (minister of corrections and legal aid) and Merabishvili (minister of interior), they will tell you that it is preventive measure and they ensure the order in the settings! I call upon the international organization to request the government to put an end to the series of murder in custodies and to start independent investigation of Mamuka Zerekidze’s death with the participation of NGOs.”

Eka Beselia, Solidarity to Illegal Prisoners: “Series of murders occur in Georgian prisons. Shall I name all of them?! Tamaz Dadvani, Zviad Khalvashi, Kakhaber Tedliashvili (a month before his death, he said his life was in danger)… the list is endless. Nobody has explained how those people died while all of them had completely inadequate injuries on the bodies.

Mamuka Zerekidze had injuries on the head and throat. It means the version suggested by the Ministry is doubtful. Minister Kalmakhelidze shall be punished under criminal law for everything what happens in prisons. Believe me, it will happen soon. However, it will not be right to punish her only for abuse of her power after all those crimes that occurred in her institution. Investigators and prosecutors enter prisons at night and receive confession statements from prisoners as a result of torture and other illegal methods; does not Kalmakhelidze know about it? Is not the minister responsible for it? Our last chance is to appeal to international organizations and request their assistance to stop series of murders in Georgian prisons!”

Alarming Statistic!

The scope of torture and mortality of prisoners in Georgian custodies is incredible. In 2010 142 prisoners died; the age of most of them varied from 28 to 35 and had various injuries. In the first half of 2011 38 prisoners died.

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