The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office have brought charges of aggravated murder against three men and two boys over the death of 19-year-old Giorgi Shakarashvili.
The five are among 17 young men and boys detained on 28 June four days after Shakarashvili’s body was discovered in the River Aragvi, near the city of Mtskheta.
Vakhtang Chikovani, Nikoloz Revazishvili, Archil Gagnidze and two boys under the age of 18 stand accused of throwing Shakarashvili into the river after beating him ‘mercilessly’.
A forensic examination of his body found that Shakarashvili drowned, but it remains unclear if he was conscious or not when he went into the river. While the water was allegedly shallow, friends and close relatives have claimed that Shakarashvili did not know how to swim.
Shakarashvili and five friends were attacked by several groups of young men as they were on their way home from a party on 18 June.
According to the investigation, while others from the 17 were involved in attacking the group, no one beyond the five to be charged were involved in the killing. If found guilty, they face 13–17 years in prison.
Investigators said that the indictments had been corroborated by witness testimony, mobile phone data, and video recordings and CCTV footage. The Prosecutor’s Office has released a video reconstruction of the alleged events of the evening.
The Prosecutor’s Office said that some of the injuries identified on Shakarashvili’s body were the result of the beatings, ruling out his accidentally slipping and falling down the slope or from a nearby bridge.
The investigation into the death of Shakarashvili, a player for FC Saburtalo’s youth team, has gripped Georgia in recent weeks. The case has gained unprecedented media attention, including journalistic investigations on prime time national TV channels claiming to offer clues allegedly missed by the official investigation.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia gripped by investigation into death of young footballer]
The latest indictments confirmed the preliminary report released on 10 July that Shakarashvili died of asphyxiation and sustained multiple injuries before death.
Shakarashvili’s uncle, Mirian Nikoladze, who has represented the family in the media and previously predicted similar indictments, insisted today that the ‘case was solved’.
According to him, the family were now looking forward to seeing the verdicts. He called for the alleged perpetrators to be punished to ‘the full extent of the law’.
After being critical of reporting by Mtavari Arkhi, a TV channel associated with the formerly ruling United National Movement which has aired several alternative theories on the events of 18 June, Nikoladze found himself targeted by the channel. Hosts on Mtavari Arkhi at one point accused him of building a political career out of the case.
The investigation continues.