Aleksandre Lashkarava, a camera operator at TV Pirveli injured during the 5 July violence in Tbilisi, has been found dead at his home.
Lashkarava’s body was found in bed by his mother at home on Sunday morning. The cause of death has not yet been determined.
Police have launched an investigation.
Lashkarava sustained broken facial bones and a concussion on 5 July when homophobic protesters attacked at least 53 journalists in the streets.
Lashkarava was with fellow TV Pirveli journalist Miranda Bagharturia in the building housing the office of the Shame Movement when a violent mob broke in. Later recalling the events, Baghaturia said that they were cornered by dozens of people who then proceeded to beat Aleksandre Lashkarava.
She said a priest grabbed her hair and someone hit her after which Lashkarava, her camera operator, told them to stop — that was when the attackers turned their focus on him. One police officer was also on the scene, but he was also overpowered.
‘My camera operator [Lashkarava] was in a pool of blood. They were beating him mercilessly for 20 minutes’, Baghaturia recalled in an interview aired on TV Pirveli. ‘Meanwhile, 15 people were holding me, I was yelling at them not to kill him, they were prodding and hitting me. They threw away my phone and 20 people grabbed Lekso [Aleksandre Lashkarava], I couldn't see him’.
TV Pirveli's owner, Vato Tsereteli, blamed the government for Lashkarava’s death shortly after the news broke.
‘There’s a sense of impunity in the country. I find [Georgian Prime Minister] Irakli Gharibashvili and Georgian Dream personally responsible for this’, Tsereteli said.
TV Pirveli claimed they had managed to identify nine of the attackers on their crew on 5 July while the authorities have detained only four.
The police presence on the streets of Tbilisi remained light throughout 5 July, despite attacks on journalists beginning in the morning and continuing throughout the day. Where police officers were present, they often did not immediately intervene when attacks took place.
[Read OC Media’s editorial: A state-sanctioned attack on Georgia’s free press]
Opposition leaders including Lelo Party leader Mamuka Khazaradze and Girchi More Freedom leader Zurab Girchi Japaridze have called for an independent investigation to be held into Lashkarava’s death.
The Chair of the Droa movement Elene Khoshtaria, sprayed red paint in the entrance hall of Georgian Government Chancellery in protest against the violence.
The Shame Movement has planned a demonstration outside Parliament on Sunday at 18:00 demanding the resignation of the ‘violent Government’ of Irakli Gharibashvili, an independent investigation into Lashkarava’s death, and the prosecution of all perpetrators of the recent violence in Tbilisi.
[Read more on OC Media: Journalists recall day of terror in Tbilisi]