Abkhazia releases border guard accused of killing Georgian man

2 June 2017
Funeral of Giga Otkhozoria in Zugdidi (Ipress.ge)

Abkhazia has dropped criminal proceedings against Abkhazian border guard Rashid Kandzhi-Ogly, who was accused of killing a Georgian man at a checkpoint between Abkhazia and Tbilisi-controlled territory, the Georgian State Security Service reported on 31 May.

Kandzhi-Ogly was accused of murdering Giga Otkhozoria, an ethnic Georgian man from Abkhazia’s eastern Gali (Gal) District, at a checkpoint near the village of Khurcha on 19 May 2016, after a conflict reportedly broke out between Otkhozoria and the Abkhazian guards. According to Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kandzhi-Ogly shot dead Otkhozoria at point blank.

The day after the incident, Georgian TV station Rustavi 2 aired a video purportedly of the incident, in which two men in military uniform can be seen attacking a third man, with one of them shooting him.

The Georgian State Security Service reported that the issue was one of the main topics at the 46th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting on 31 May, between Georgian and Abkhazian officials. Abkhazian officials said during the meeting that the case had been dropped on 21 April.

‘The State Security Service will use all possible levers to bring the convict Rashid Kandzhi-Ogly to justice in Georgia for killing Giga Othkozoria’, their statement reads.

A court in Georgia convicted Kandzhi-Ogly in absentia on 26 December 2016, sentencing him to 12 years in prison. Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office appealed the length of his sentence to the Kutaisi Appeal Court, which increased it to 14 years on 10 March 2016.

The EU Delegation to Georgia called the acquittal of Kandzhi-Ogly ‘a disappointment’.

‘After one full year of intensive work and the handover of investigation materials at the IPRM meetings, this failure to bring justice was a great disappointment’, the EU Delegation’s statement reads.

A spokesman for the Abkhazian Prosecutor General’s Office, Adgur Agrba, told Russian state-run news outlet Sputnik Abkhazia that the criminal case against Kandzhi-Ogly had been terminated because they were unable to prove the offence.

‘The Otkhozoria murder case was dropped on 21 April because the Georgian side did not provide us with necessary materials for our case, despite our requests’, Agrba said.

According to him, Abkhazia had been waiting for necessary documentation from Georgia, and those that were provided couldn’t be used by the court.

‘They promised each time to provide us with documents, but they sent only materials in Georgian without a stamp, a signature, or even the surname of the witness; there were no interrogated witnesses either. Pure wastepaper. We didn’t take it under consideration and sent back all these papers ’, he said.

Otkhozoria’s mother, Julieta Chanturia, told Georgian news agency Ipress that the inaction of the Georgian government was to blame for Kandzhi-Ogly’s release.

‘Today’s announcement is tantamount to death for me. Perhaps the Georgian side didn’t take it seriously enough. This case is not only about my son’s murder, it is a matter of Georgia’s honour’, she said.

Kandzhi-Ogly was included in Interpol’s Red Circular international wanted list on Georgia’s request on 17 March 2017.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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