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Five convicted in group murder of Georgian footballer Shakarashvili

9 March 2021
Giorgi Shakarashvili. Photo via Facebook.

Georgia’s Mtskheta Regional Court has convicted five people of aggravated murder in the highly-anticipated murder case of 19-year-old footballer Giorgi Shakarashvili.

The ruling by Judge Bidzina Sturua confirmed the prosecutor’s version of events — that the five young men chased after and bludgeoned Shakarashvili under a bridge before drowning him in the river.

The case has gripped Georgia since Shakarashvili’s body was discovered last June, gaining unprecedented media attention including journalistic investigations on prime time national TV channels claiming to offer clues allegedly missed by the official investigation.

Vakhtang Chikovani, Nikoloz Revazishvili, Archil Gagnidze, were found guilty of assaulting Shakarashvili before throwing his body into the river last summer, and each was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Sentencing for two boys who were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed will take place on 16 March.

Shakarashvili, a promising player for the FC Saburtalo youth team, disappeared in the early hours of 19 June 2020, only to be found dead in the River Aragvi in Mtskheta on 22 June.

While confirming Shakarashvili drowned, several forensic analyses indicated 16 injuries on his body, confirming a theory for the investigators that the victim was badly beaten.

One of the reports published by the Prosecutor’s Office in September concluded that his body was in the water for 3-4 days and that he sustained his injuries, possibly causing him to lose consciousness or limit his mobility, ‘10-20 minutes’ before his death. 

According to the prosecution, all five young men who faced convictions today arrived near the scene of the final violent incident on Toyota Camry.

Before heading towards the river while being chased and facing attackers alone, Giorgi Shakarashvili and his several friends were pursued by two different groups earlier on 18 June evening.

The motive behind all the attacks is believed to be retaliation over a brawl at a party earlier that day. It has not been confirmed if Shakarashvili participated in the original incident except for pulling several young men out from the fight to make them stop, suggesting he was targeted based on guilt by association.

Overall, the authorities have detained 17 men and boys over the incident who have faced different charges, most of them — over the group violence and illegally holding one of Shakarashvili’s friends in a car against his will. 

Three of those accused of group violence in a separate criminal proceeding pleaded guilty earlier this year. Most of the others facing similar charges, including six minors, have already been served with different prison terms ranging from 33 to 45 months. 

As for five attackers found guilty of aggravated murder today, all have maintained innocence. 

Their representatives in court underlined that there was no material evidence or witness testimony directly linking their defendants with murder; the prosecution, instead, argued last September that all five men made sure to ‘erase’ all forensic traces from their bodies, their phone records, and possibly from their clothes. 

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