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Accident or Assassination?

Accident or Assassination?

Why Are an Independent Expert and Media Threatened?

The vague circumstances of the death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania leave a number of unanswered questions. According to independent experts the investigation is under pressure from authorities, and expressing an independent opinion regarding the issue is restricted. Independent expert Maia Nikoleishvili and TV Company “Mze” have become the objects of threat and intimidation in association with the case;  Maia Nikoleishvili for expressing alternative opinions and the TV Company for airing her professional opinion of the official version of the circumstances of Zhvania’s death. Due to the mentioned threats the expert has restricted herself from moving freely in the city.  The employees of the TV company have not made any comments about the threats.

In the information-analytical programme – “Archevanis Zgvarze” (At the point of choice) of the TV Company “Mze,” Nikoleishvili criticized the statements and conclusions made by the government officials and medical experts participating in the case, who have spread contradictory information regarding the concentration of the poisonous substance found in Zhvania’s blood.

After the programme ended Maia Nikoleishvili and the TV Company “Mze” received intimidating phone calls. According to Nikoleishvili, she was threatened on the phone and advised to give up speaking about Zhvania’s death. Restriction of the free expression of opinion, especially professional opinion, has lately become even more intensive in Georgia than it has been in the past.

On February 3, after the participation of Maia Nikoleishvili in the information-analytical project “Archevanis Zgvarze” , the programme was not repeated the next day as it usually is. Certain services took the recordings of the programme away from the TV Company and threatened the independent expert.

In the programme “Archevanis Zgvarze” Maia Nikoleishvili spoke about the non- correspondence of the versions of the investigation regarding the death of Zurab Zhvania, and the real facts. In an interview with Human Rights Information and Documentation Center Maia Nikoleishvili spoke about the points she made that presumably led to the threatening phone calls. She indicated the pressure being exercised on the investigation, saying that “In the programme ‘Archevanis Zgvarze,’ I criticized the officials’ offering only one version of the story. It is inadmissible in the process of investigation, as it indicates that there is only one direction in which to take the investigation, which, of course, is incorrect. When speaking in the programme I opposed the responses of the Expertise Center, who had stated that the lethal concentration of the poisonous substance in the blood was 20 percent, and then they changed the figures. This specifically was my reason for opposing them. As I have not taken any immediate part in the expertise I had no arguments; as for my not participating as an expert in the investigation, I consider it to be a closed process. I do not remember closed processes like this having taken place during the last ten years.” 

HRIDC-What do you think the government is trying to conceal?

Maia Nikoleishvili- It’s nothing new to anybody that I have been criticizing the human resources policy of Mikheil Saakashvili for one year. I have said a lot about their non-professionalism. Faith is a good thing, but non-professionalism, very bad. It is better for a person to be faithful to his/her profession than faithful personally to the president. I do not mean anyone specifically, but I think that employment in the human resources policy due to friendship is destructive for the country, the results of which we experienced during the whole year and which still continue. Let us say that the voicing of the official version regarding Zhvania’s death was due to lack of professionalism, and with so many mistakes being made, closing the process was really too much in this case. This is not the death of only one person. He was the Prime Minister of our country and if his death was an accident it means that public figures, officials, are absolutely not protected and there is no system of protection in the country at all; it may lead to another accident tomorrow. An average citizen may die in an accident but it should not happen to a person like the Prime Minister, who is so closely protected. If everything was planned, then it is understandable that it is a serious political danger which will be revealed in the near future.

HRIDC- According to the spread of information, pressure was exercised on you after you participated in the programme. Do you confirm this and if so what kind of pressure was exercised?

MN- Yes, I received several threatening phone calls after the programme, and I restricted myself from moving freely in the city for a certain period of time. At present there have been no more threats.

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