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Prison Instead of Love

14.12.2007
Mamia Pkhakadze the Chairman of the Gori Regional Court has sentenced 21 year-old Alika Tsulaia to 6-year-imprisonment, a resident of the village of Gachedili in Martivli district. Tsulaia is accused for the robbery of Konstantine Rukhadze, a taxi-driver from Kutaisi, in the incident the driver was wounded. Besides that the taxi-driver stated at the trial that the relatives of the defendant visited him and asked to change the testimony. Because of the fact the head of court indicated the following in the verdict: "Based on false testimonies made by witnesses at the trial they can be imposed criminal responsibilities on as they violated procedural norms."

Introduction

Last summer, Alika Tsulaia got acquainted with Pikria Samadashvil, a resident of the village of Tirdzini in Gori District and fell in love with her. On February 10, 2007 Alika Tsulaia decided to get married to her. First he traveled to Kutaisi; took a taxi and then went to a pawnshop where he mortgaged his golden chain and the clerk at the pawnshop recorded his IDs. Afterwards Tsulaia paid the money to the driver and asked him to take to Gori.

They left for Gori. On their way Tsulaia and the taxi-driver called at a roadside restaurant where they made toasts to the future family of young couple.

They arrived in Gori at 10:00 p.m. Tsulaia phoned Pikria Samadashvili and asked to come outside. At first the girl resisted to marry him because Tsulaia was drunk. The taxi-driver asked the boy to turn back to Kutaisi. The young man asked the taxi-driver not to leave him without a car because he wanted to take the girl to Kutaisi. However the taxi-driver left him in secret.

Konstantine Rukhadze, the taxi driver fell into the canal near the village of Tkviavi. Alika Tsulukidze chased the taxi-driver in another car. Some time later he reached him and they started quarrelling. Later the taxi-driver and Tsulaia parted and took different ways to Kutaisi. In a few days Alika Tsulaia and Pikria Samadashvili got married; unfortunately their wedding was spoiled.

Two days later, on February 12 the taxi-driver applied to the Gori Police Department and balmed Alika Tsulaia for robbing his car and money. The criminal case was launched. On February 27 Martvili Criminal Police Officers visited Alika Tsulaia according to the request of Gori police investigator. Tsulaia's mother replied to the police officers that her son was in Tbilis at his uncle’s because he was second-year student at P. Gugushvili University. Despite the fact, police concluded that Tsulaia’s location was unknown and they declared him wanted. Tsulaia was arrested and as a result of nine-month prolonged trial he was sentenced to six-year-imprisonment.

According to lawyers, victim side in the incident, the taxi-driver, has changed his testimonies for several times. However, Judge Pkhakadze did not pay attention to it. "Prosecutor's Office and the court did their best to satisfy only the interests of Konstantine Rukhadze the taxi-driver who has criminal record and to send 21-year-old young man to prison," stated the relatives.

This story is much spoken about in Gori and local people have created some sayings, like "The Prosecutor, investigator and the judge, who have come from Tbilisi, are not married; so they do not know what the love is…"

This history reflects the dramatic story in details. Although the Prosecutor's Office claims that Alika Tsulaia, armed with knife, attacked the taxi-driver and threatened his life. He intended to mug the car from the taxi-driver. The relatives of Alika Tsulaia applied to the Human Rights Centre for help. According to the center’s lawyers, above mentioned criminal case is investigated through blatant violation of judicial procedures. 

Fraudulent Case Materials

More precisely, Tsulaia was convicted and declared wanted without being officially accused for the crime. On February 27 2007 Court sentenced Alika Tsulaia to imprisonment though he did not attend the case discussion. Consequently, the Article 81, paragraph II of the Georgian Criminal Code was breached which envisages the circumstance when the accused avoids appearing to the investigative body. According to the same article a relative of the accused shall hire an attorney within 48 hours; but if s/he fails to find the attorney the accused will be assigned with the State Attorney that is strictly demanded by the law. Consequently, prosecutor or the investigator invites the attorney and hands in the conclusion on conviction of the accused to the solicitor. The term for the procedure is “introduction of the condemned person with official accusation against him/her”. This regulation was inserted in the law on December 29 2006 however, Shermadin Kapanadze, investigator at the Gori Police Department and Prosecutor Kakha Muradashvili breached the law.

Reportedly, Prosecutor Kakha Muradashvili declared Alika Tsulaia wanted on February 27. The document stated that law enforcers could not find out the location of Tsulaia. We have got hold of the record signed by Martvili Police Department’s investigator which states that when law enforcers arrived at Tsulaia’s house in the village of Gachedili in Martvili District, only his mother was at home. The mother told them that her son was in Tbilisi at his uncle’s. Despite that police did not consider it necessary to travel to Tbilisi and find Alika Tsulaia at his uncle’s house. It is noteworthy that the policeman’s record does not state why they arrived at Tsulaia’s house in the village; they did not explain to the condemned’s mother why they were inquiring about her son. Consequently, investigator Shemadin Kapanadze concluded that Alika Tsulaia was hiding from police. We want to point out once again that the Martvili Policemen knew where the condemned lived and studied. However they did not visit any of those places. Human Right Center considers that Alika Tsulaia was illegally declared wanted and the charge was artificially aggravated on him. 

Interesting is the knife that is used as an evident in the case materials. Taxi driver brought the knife to the police station two days after the incident. In the testimony made during preliminary investigation, the taxi driver claimed that Alika Tsulaia wounded him in the village of Tirdznisi, but during court investigation he said incident happened in the village of Tkviavi. Judge Pkhakadze considered that the victim made his testimony more accurate and it was not retraction of his initial testimony. In addition to that the taxi driver stated at the trial that it was rusty knife with wood handle; though in case materials the knife has plastic handle.

As a result of above-mentioned circumstances it is doubtful whether the taxi driver was wounded in fact or not. On February 12 taxi driver was assisted at the Gori Hospital. The medical certificate signed by the director of the hospital states that the patient had bruises on his face. The certificate does not mention that on February 12 the taxi driver had wound on the hand.

“It is also strange that if Tsulaia really attempted to rob Rusadze, could not he find any other place on their way from Kutaisi to the village of Tirdznisi to rob him? Or how it could happen that the criminal wanted to rob the person and he introduced himself with his full name and showed the ID,” asked Sofo Samadashvili, wife of the accused.

Human Rights Center is deeply concerned about the detention of Vefkhia Samadashvili, cousin of Alika Tsulaia’s wife, because of retraction of her testimony. Although the witness was released several hours later the investigation is still underway. However, the taxi-driver is not punished for the same crime; he has changed his initial testimony for six times.

1.    The victim stated in his testimony to the preliminary investigation that Tsulaia had phoned his girl-friend when they reached the bridge to Tskhinvali and promised he would be at her house within forty minutes; though at the trial he said that Tsulaia did not call anybody
2.    During investigation taxi-driver said that Tsulaia had told him in Kutaisi that he wanted to visit his girl-friend; but at the trial he refused it;
3.    During investigation taxi-driver said that in the village of Tirdznisi, 20-25 meters away from Petrol Station Tsulaia made him stop the car under threat of knife and demanded to give him money and the car. At the trial he said that as soon as they turned at the bridge of Gori Tsulaia made him stop the car and he himself drove the car to the village of Tirdznisi.
4.    During investigation taxi-driver said that in the village of Tkviavi, being unable to pull the car out of the canal, he got out of the car and called local people for help. At the trial he said that when Alika Tsulaia approached him and started quarreling with him the local people came to rescue him.
5.    During the investigation taxi-driver said that his total damage as a result of the incident amounted to 2 500 lari; at the trial he said the total sum had reached only 1 500 lari.
6.    During investigation taxi-driver said that he went back to Kutaisi by his car. At the trial he said that had left his car in the village of Tkviavi and accompanied his brother-in-law to Tbilisi, etc.

All in all, the chairman of the Gori District Court did not take all above-mentioned circumstances into consideration and passed verdict based on taxi-driver’s initial and retracted testimonies.  As for just-married family, they are eager to find justice at the County Court.

Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori


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