Khorava Street Murders Chief Prosecutor re-nominated 19 months after resigning

17 January 2020
Irakli Shotadze. Official photo.

Former Chief Prosecutor of Georgia Irakli Shotadze has been nominated to regain the post, just 19 months after stepping down.

Shotadze served in the position from November 2015 until the spring of 2018, when he was forced to resign amidst large protests in Tbilisi over his and other officials’ handling of the Khorava Street killings.

Shotadze was formally nominated to the Prosecutorial Council a day before the 17 January deadline by the Archil Prangishvili, rector of the Georgian Technical University.

On 17 January, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia hailed Shotadze’s nomination, calling him a ‘worthy professional’ and a ‘worthy candidate’.

Leading Georgian rights groups including the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International — Georgia, and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC) have urged the ruling Georgian Dream party not to confirm him. The groups identified him as ‘the only realistic candidate’ at this point. 

The news came three days after the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, a platform uniting these and other civil society groups, complained of a lack of transparency in the selection process for Chief Prosecutor.

They called on the ruling party not to select a candidate ‘according to narrow party interests’ but with a political consensus. 

In July 2018, the Coalition noted that Shotadze, as well as his three predecessors named by Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, had failed to be ‘politically neutral’.

According to 2017–2018 constitutional amendments that came into force in 2019, the Prosecutor’s Office should be fully independent from the government. 

Shotadze stepped down on 31 May 2018 as protesters gathered outside the Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi.

The protests were sparked after Tbilisi City Court made it clear that prosecutors had failed to identify all of the killers of 16-year-old Davit Saralidze. Saralidze was one of two boys fatally stabbed during a school brawl in Tbilisi in December 2017. 

Protesters gathered outside the Prosecutor’s Office on 31 May 2018 after Tbilisi City Court ruled that none of the defendants in the case struck the killing blow. Photo: Dato Parulava/OC Media

Despite his departure over the court ruling, few within Georgian Dream criticised Shotadze, with many hailing his decision to ‘take responsibility’. Justice Minister Tsulukiani argued he should not have resigned, calling him Georgia’s ‘best chief prosecutor ever’.

Tea Tsulukiani and Irakli Shotadze, December 2016. Official image.

Saralidze’s father, Zaza Saralidze, continued to lead large street rallies in the capital in protest at what he said was a ‘compromised investigation’. 

Zaza Saralidze addressing protesters outside parliament. Photo: Dato Parulava/OC Media.

He was supported by several opposition parties and local rights groups, who accused the authorities of sabotaging the investigation into the killings. They accused Mirza Subeliani, the father of one of the participants of the brawl and a high ranking employee at the Prosecutor’s Office of tampering with evidence and pressuring witnesses. 

In September 2018, an opposition-led parliamentary commission into the stabbings produced a damning 67-page report confirming the father’s claims, and accusing Shotadze of either ‘negligence’ or ‘abuse of power’.  

In March 2019, Subeliani was convicted for a ‘concealing a crime’, and in June 2018 his nephew, Mikheil Kalandia, was charged with Saralidze’s murder. 

Subeliani left prison in July 2019, after he served a 13-month term. Image: Still from the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

The government has disputed calls that Shotadze and other high-ranking officials should be investigated over their initial failure to prosecute all of the killers. 

After his resignation

Shotadze’s name resurfaced several times following his resignation. 

In September, TBC Bank founder and newcomer to Georgian politics Mamuka Khazaradze accused former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of pressuring him ‘several years ago’ by having then-Chief Prosecutor Shotadze present at an informal meeting.

According to Khazaradze, the meeting concerned his legal dispute with businessman Ivane Chkhartishvili.  

‘I left the meeting with a heavy heart because I witnessed how issues are solved in the country. An actual [Chief] Prosecutor discusses with you who is right and wrong… This shows that institutional order is dysfunctional in the country’, Khazaradze claimed in an interview with Palitra News on 12 September.

Georgian Dream dismissed the allegation as ‘gossip’. 

Murder plot against ‘the most senior cleric’

Opposition groups European Georgia and the United National Movement demanded Shotadze’s resignation as early as in February 2017, for insinuating earlier that month that archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze sought to kill the head of Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II. 

Mamaladze was arrested on 10 February on suspicion of planning to commit murder, as he was about to board a flight to Berlin, where the head of the Church, Patriarch Ilia II, was receiving treatment. Critics accused Shotadze of misleading the public by saying that ‘the most senior cleric’ was the target. 

The Prosecutor’s Office immediately classified the investigation and barred lawyers from disclosing details of the case. 

Leading rights groups remain convinced that Mamaladze’s case has still not been properly investigated.

[Read the latest on this topic on OC Media: Georgian president refuses to pardon ‘poison plot’ archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze]

Attack on Tordia

In 2017, the Chair of Georgia’s State Audit Service Lasha Tordia accused Shotadze of covering for former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze, whom Shotadze previously described as his ‘friend’.

In November 2013, Shotadze was appointed First Deputy Prosecutor under Partskhaladze, who served as Chief Prosecutor for just 47 days. 

Tordia claimed that on 12 May 2017, Otar Partskhaladze attacked him in a restaurant in Tbilisi after his office investigated real estate corruption between him and Tbilisi City Hall. 

Otar Partskhaladze. Via Presa.ge.

Tordia accused the Chief Prosecutor’s Office under Shotadze and the Interior Ministry of failing to probe the findings by his office, which later also ‘encouraged’ Partskhaladze to retaliate against him.

Tordia also accused Shotadze of being behind an anonymous leak of footage of an altercation Tordia had in 2016 with others, in order to ‘smear’ him amidst allegations he levied against Partskhaladze over the May assault.

Partskhaladze was charged over the brawl six months after Shotadze resigned. He was released on bail soon after on the prosecution’s request. 

While the case is still in court, Shotadze’s successor, Shalva Tadumadze praised Partskhaladze in July for ‘forging transparency and openness’ in the Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

Secret recordings

‘This Concerns You’, a campaign against illegal wiretapping uniting several rights groups, demanded Shotadze step down less than five months after he became Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor for ‘ineffective’ investigations against unlawful recordings.

Local rights advocates had been demanding that Georgian Dream thoroughly probe illegally obtained and leaked recordings, including sex tapes, since they gained power in 2012. They insisted on Shotadze’s resignation after in March 2016, several public figures were anonymously blackmailed with online leaks. 

The leaking of intimate footage of government critics as a form of blackmail has continued to plague Georgian politics up to late 2019.

[Read more on OC Media: Four Georgian officials allegedly targetted in new sex-tape scandal]

Unsolved investigations into Mukhtarli’s abduction and Machalikashvili’s death 

Under Shotadze, the state prosecution also took over the investigation into the disappearance of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukharli from Tbilisi on 29 May 2017. 

The case, initially investigated by the Interior Ministry, still remains unsolved and has not progressed after then-Chief Prosecutor Shotadze argued it could not do so as Azerbaijan had prevented Georgian investigators from questioning Mukhtarli. 

Mukhtarli appeared in Azerbaijani custody the day after last being seen in Tbilisi. He was later charged with smuggling €10,000 in cash, illegal border crossing, and resisting police, eventually being sentenced to six years imprisonment.

Mukhtarli’s supporters and human rights advocates held several rallies in Tbilisi demanding a proper investigation. 

According to a survey from the Caucasus Research Resource Centers commissioned by Transparency International — Georgia on the anniversary of Mukhtarli's disappearance, 33% of respondents said they believed the Georgian authorities were somehow involved in the incident. 

Malkhaz Machalikashvili. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

On 16 January, EMC named the fatal shooting of Temirlan Machalikashvili, a 19-year-old ethnic Kist from Georgia’s Pankisi Valley in late 2017, as another high profile case that the Prosecutor's Office under Shotadze failed to investigate. 

[Read EMC’s Tamta Mikeladze’s opinion on OC Media: Nearly two years after the killing of Temirlan Machalikashvili there are still no answers]

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