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Georgia’s first-ever olympic gold medalist charged with premeditated murder

19 August 2021
Zurab Zviadauri. Photo via Facebook.

Zurab Zviadauri, a former member of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, Olympic medalist, and prominent judoka has been charged with premeditated murder after an altercation in which he allegedly shot a man dead. 

Zviadauri attended his brother’s funeral on 19 August while handcuffed and closely  monitored by a prison guard. 

The Olympic judo gold medalist, who served as a Georgian Dream MP from 2012-2016, was charged after allegedly killing a man in a 16 August shootout that resulted in three deaths, including his brother, Zviad Zviadauri. Two more alleged participants in the incident were injured.

The altercation took place near Tsinandali, a village close to the eastern Georgian town of Telavi. Police arrested Zviadauri the following day. He has been charged with premeditated murder, punishable with 7-15 years in prison.

Jaba Jangirashvili, arrested together with Zurab Zviadauri, is being indicted for the ‘negligent storing’ of a firearm, indicating Zviadauri could have used his pistol during the incident.

Georgian Olympic champions Lasha Talakhadze and Lasha Bekauri unsuccessfully tried to vouch for Zviadauri, to obtain a pre-trial release from detention on Wednesday. 

While probing Lasha Bekauri on the matter, judge Tamar Kapanadze did not miss the opportunity to congratulate Bekauri on his recent gold medal at this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

‘You made the whole of Georgia very proud and I wish you more success’, the Judge told Bekauri while rejecting the defence motion shortly afterwards.

Another former Georgian Dream MP, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, also tried to help Zviadauri.

‘I’ll lock him from the outside and unlock the door when I go back home if needed’, Kutsnashvili promised while trying to convince the judge to let him vouch for his conduct if she freed the Georgian judoka. 

While judge Tamar Kapanadze denied the motion for Zviadauri’s release on ₾500,000 ($16,200) bail, she allowed Zurab Zviadauri to attend his brother’s funeral on 19 August under the condition he was accompanied by an escort. 

Zurab Zviadauri, who in 2004 Summer Olympics won the first gold medal in independent Georgia’s history and was awarded with Presidential Order of Excellence three years ago, maintains he acted in defense of himself and his brother when he shot 27-year-old Nika Kenchoshvili.

The reasons for the deadly shooting that according to officials started with a ‘verbal dispute’ and culminated in three deaths on Monday remain unclear. 

The trial is due to resume in early October.

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