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A Man Gone for Bread Returned Home Three Years Later Methods of Winning People Over at the MIA

Tea Topuria

Member of the Ossetian Association in Georgia Giorgi Khetaguri disappeared for three years. He was detained on October 29, 2006 but the law enforcement bodies did not inform anybody about it. The society received complete information only after Giorgi Khetaguri served the complete sentence. Khetaguri, convicted for the purchase and usage of narcotics, said that he was sent to prison on political grounds. The law enforcement officers wanted to compel him to be their informer on the Ossetian side.

Member of the Ossetian Association in Georgia Giorgi Khetaguri disappeared for three years. He was detained on October 29, 2006 but the law enforcement bodies did not inform anybody about it. The society received complete information only after Giorgi Khetaguri served the complete sentence. Khetaguri, convicted for the purchase and usage of narcotics, said that he was sent to prison on political grounds. The law enforcement officers wanted to compel him to be their informer on the Ossetian side.

55-year-old Giorgi Khetaguri was member of the non-governmental organization Association of Ossetian People in Georgia. The organization was founded in 1999 and its aim was to restore broken bridge between Georgian and Ossetian peoples. Khetaguri said that one fine day (2006), the head of the association Tengiz Gagloev was called to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and offered him and Khetaguri to work for them during the elections of the head of the temporary administration of the South Ossetia; they had to assist one of the candidates Dimitri Sanakoev. Unless they accepted their offer, the law enforcement officers threatened them with creating problems in their activities.

Giorgi Khetaguri:“They called us two times but Tengiz went there both times; he used to return back very astonished. The existence of the association was under question. We were threatened – we had either to work for them or we had to stop working. Finally we agreed.

The head of the military police at the MIA, certain Sukhitashvili used to visit us at the association. He used to put us into the car and drive to Eredvi village. There they had an election HQ in somebody’s house. I am a lawyer and was in charge of election documents.

The situation lasted for a long time. I have Ossetian relatives and used to visit them. One day, on October 29, 2006, when I was traveling to Eredvi village, I was stopped at the border checkpoint. The passengers were about ten people; the officers introduced themselves as officials of the anti-narcotic department. They released everybody expect me; they took me into a room and searched me carefully. They were looking for narcotics; however, they seemed to be more interested in my notebook. Later I was released me.”

Khetaguri was not free for a long time. In Tbilisi, he went to the shop to buy food; he bought bread, sausages and lemonade. In the street a car blocked his way and people in the car asked him to follow them.

The following events are described in Giorgi Khetaguri’s case as follows: “On October 29, 2006 director of the counter-intelligence department within the MIA Major-General Sh. Zhghenti received operative information which stated that Khetaguri often travelled to Tskhinvali region where he purchases narcotic substances and sells it in Tbilisi. The investigation started on the same day. Khetaguri was detained at the bread-shop; he was searched on the place and officers discovered one tablet of Subotex in his pocket.”

Khetaguri tells the completely different story. H said he was neither detained nor searched at the shop. Strange people simply asked him to sit in their car and took him to the Security Ministry.

Giorgi Khetaguri:“They took me into the office with my bread and sausages. I met a strange general there. I do not remember his surname; I think he was Zhghenti. He asked me why I had visited my cousin. I was surprised how they knew who I visited in Tskhinvali. My cousin, Aghsar Kochiev was prosecutor of the South Ossetia. Now he is in the opposition of Kokoiti. The general told me I had provided my cousin with secret information about the elections. I told him I did not know any secret what the de-facto government of South Ossetia did not know.”

Khetaguri said that at the MIA he was offered to cooperate with them; more precisely he was offered to be their spy. He had to collect information in Ossetia and instead they promised to fund the projects of the association; they even promised him the position of the president in the association.

Giorgi Khetaguri:“They told me they needed a man like me – who knows everybody and can meet everybody. “If you work for us, we will get rid of that old man (Tengiz Gagloev) and you will become the president of the association; we will even fund your projects. Unless you accept our offer, you will regret. They gave me time for consideration. Short time later, the general visited me again. He asked me: “Have you thought over?” I told him I had nothing to think over. He slapped me twice and went outside. Ten men rushed in to the room. They all started to beat me together; they mostly beat me in the head. One of them threw heavy ash-tray at me. Luckily it did not reach me. Another man hit a chair in my arm. My arm hurt for two days. Then, I was put in the car and taken to the drug-center.”

After drug-tests, narcotic substance was not detected in Khetaguri’s blood. The trip did not end at it. At 2:00 am he was taken to an investigator Vladimer Datashvili who had just got up from the bed.

Giorgi Khetaguri:“That Datashvili told me “yes I am nationalist and want every Ossetian to die; then we would not have problems. Ossetian people will never improve… We have to throw you away by tractors…”

“He wanted to provoke me but I tried to stay calm. At 3:00 am the conclusion was brought from the chemical laboratory which stated that one tablet of Subotex was found in my cloths. I wrote that I had read the conclusion but did not agree it. I requested the assistance of the lawyer but they refused – they said it was impossible to find an attorney at night.”

As for case materials (case # 061974), they state that Khetaguri refused to take attorney. However, on the other side, on October 30, the interrogation protocol on the accused states that Khetaguri does not plead guilty.

Doctor Visited Khetaguri in Prison. Extract from the case materials. Doctor of the Tbilisi temporary detention setting, police captain T. Mikadze: “Khetaguri … complains of headaches and pain in the chest. He said he was slightly injured in the face during detention.”

Police as Witness

Head of the Association of Ossetian People in Georgia Tengiz Gagloev confirmed that he and Khetaguri were members of the district election commission of South Ossetia during the election of Sanakoev to the position of the head of temporary administration of South Ossetia.

Tengiz Gagloev:“Military police of the MIA offered us to work for the elections. Nobody oppressed us; simply they offered and we accepted. Later, Giorgi was arrested. I did not witness the detention process but learned about it from others. Giorgi had just returned from South Ossetia; he was at my place. He went to the shop but never returned. There were people who saw him detained. I do not think he was searched; people did not say anything about it. The police told the people standing nearby that he was arrested for narcotics and I learned about it from them. Nobody informed me about his detention officially.”

It is noteworthy, that in accordance to the Article 138 of the Criminal Code of Georgia “investigator and prosecutor are entitled to inform a family member or a relative or a friend within 5 hours after detention of a person in accordance to the order of the court on detention or on placing a person in medical center for corresponding expertise.” The law also states that copy of this summon shall be attached to the case materials. In Khetaguri’s case, nobody informed the family and consequently, there were no documents in the case materials.

It is also interesting that guiltiness of Khetaguri is confirmed by the testimonies of witnesses, search warrant and expertise conclusion. However, Khetaguri claims he was not searched. The fact of search is obscure because the witnesses are only policemen. The police explain that Khetaguri was arrested in the evening and it was danger that Khetaguri could hide the narcotic substance in the darkness. On the other side, Gagloev said that several people witnessed Khetaguri’s detention that is not strange because he was arrested in the street. Thus, the police could invite the people as witnesses but they did not do it.

Officials from the MIA Otar Janjghava and Otar Jaoshvili are those people who officially confirmed the search and discovery of Subotex in Khetaguri’s pocket. There are no other witnesses of this fact except the policemen.

The law does not ban policemen to be witnesses. But the lawyer of the Human Rights Center Nikoloz Legashvili said that “it is legislative fault which was misused by the police in their favor.”

Nikoloz Legashvili:“Those people were invited as witnesses who represented a party in the case. Consequently, a policeman cannot be a witness of the detention who himself detains a person. In similar situation the justice cannot be guaranteed.”

This fact is important because there is nothing in the case materials to prove the guiltiness of Khetaguri but the testimonies of the policemen, search protocol which is signed by the policemen and court expertise which claims that the pill provided by the policemen was really Subotex. Consequently, there is no guarantee that both protocol and testimonies were created by the policemen. It is not proved either that the pill of Subotex was really discovered in Khetaguri’s pocket.

It is noteworthy that Khetaguri is not the only person with similar story. If policemen are witnesses in the case, the detainee cannot find justice. For example, we can mention the case of political prisoner Joni Jikia.

On October 2, 2007 Joni Jikia was arrested in the street in Zugdidi. Like Khetaguri he was accused in the illegal possession and usage of narcotics.

According to the conclusion of the Zugdidi main expertise-criminalist department Jikia was not under influence of narcotics at the moment of detention; but laboratory test showed trace of drugs in his blood. Jikia did not agree with the conclusion and stated that he had never used narcotics in his life.

Although Jikia was arrested in the street like Khetaguri, there are no witnesses in his case but the policemen.

If You Speak Up You Will Spend 10 Years in Prison

In 2007 the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Giorgi Khetaguri to 4-year-imprisonment under Article 260 Part I of the Criminal Code of Georgia – illegal purchase and possession of narcotics.

Before that, investigator Datashvili visited Khetaguri in prison.

Giorgi Khetaguri:“Datashvili told me if I spoke up, I would spend 10 years in prison; if I keep silence – only 4 years. He said the high-ranking officials wanted me to spend at least 2 years in prison. So, I kept silence. I did not say anything at the trial. Neither my attorney said anything because he was appointed by the court. I had not seen him before and first met him at the trial. I was sentenced to 4-year-imprisonment.”

Although Khetaguri said he did not say anything, the case materials state that he pleaded guilty. “This case is completely fabricated. I did not plead guilty. I did not say anything, they just wrote what they wanted,” said Khetaguri.

The Human Rights Center unsuccessfully tried to get in touch with the MIA for comments. The head of the public relation department of the ministry Shota Khizanishvili did not answer phone-calls for two days. The request letter of the Center on public information was not replied either. However, the position of the MIA is clearly demonstrated from case materials which states that Khetaguri pleaded guilty without any oppression.

The Appeal Court did not change the initial verdict; Khetaguri had appealed to the Appeal Court. However, later, the prisoner was released one year earlier based on the decision of the Commission on Early Conditional Release.

Tengiz Gagloev:“His wife Ala visited me several times. She wanted to get information about him but I could not say anything; I did not know anything more than I had learned from the people standing in the street during detention; neither his wife knew anything more.”

Giorgi Khetaguri said that in prison he was not allowed to call anybody. Only one year later, he managed to get in touch with relatives with the support of a released prisoner. Later, Red Cross interfered in his case and Khetaguri managed to get in touch with his family with their support. As for the society, they learned about the detention of a man who went to the shop for bread only three years later. 

Disappearance of Giorgi Khetaguri is one example of disappearance of ethnic Ossetian people in Georgia. About ten people disappeared recently and later they were found in various detention settings. After the release former prisoners said they were arrested based on fabricated charges and were offered to be spies in exchange of freedom.

The article was prepared within the project -  Investigation of the facts of the Enforced Disappearances in Georgia with Financial Support of the Eurasian Partnership Foundation within the EU funded project - Strengthening the Media’s Role as a Watchdog Institution in Georgia
The contents of this article report are the sole responsibility of the Human rights Centre and cannot be taken as to reflect the views of the European Union and Eurasian Partnership Foundation.

29 Jun. '10