Killer of Davit Saralidze sentenced to 15 years for murder

25 February 2020
Mikheil Kalandia in court. Photo: Mzia Saganelidze/RFE/RL

Tbilisi City Court has sentenced Mikheil Kalandia to 15 years in prison for the premeditated murder of teenage boy Davit Saralidze in late 2017.

The court sentenced the 20-year-old for the group murder of Saralidze on 25 February.

The murder of two 16-years-old boys, Davit Saralidze and Levan Dadunashvili, during a school brawl on Tbilisi’s Khorava Street in December 2017 sent shockwaves across Georgia. 

The authorities’ failure to identify the killers in the case led to massive protests in Tbilisi and the resignation of the Chief Prosecutor, who the family and others accused of covering up the killing.

In May 2018, Tbilisi City Court found one teenager guilty of murdering Levan Dadunashvili, while another was found guilty of only the attempted murder of Saralidze, ruling that his killer had not been identified.

The verdict led Davit Saralidze’s father, Zaza Saralidze, to launch a campaign of continuous protests in front of the Georgian Parliament demanding justice for his son.

Following Tuesday’s sentencing of Kalandia, Zaza Saralidze left the court without speaking to journalists. 

Members of Kalandia’s family reiterated claims that the process had been politicised, vowing to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Kalandia is expected to serve 11 years and 3 months in prison as Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Code reduced the sentence by one third. 

Protests and a Change of Course

The Interior Ministry, which took over the case from the Prosecutor's Office, arrested and charged Kalandia on 4 June last year, a day after the Tbilisi Court of Appeal confirmed that the murder remained partially unsolved. 

It was the ‘first time’, according to Zaza Saralidze, that he had felt that ‘justice has been partially served’. 

This came just nine months after a parliamentary commission led by the opposition concluded that the prosecution had failed to carry out a thorough investigation into Kalandia’s role in the murder. 

The commission held ex-Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze and others responsible for the ‘compromised’ investigation.

From early on, Zaza Saralidze had insisted that Kalandia’s uncle, Mirza Subeliani, who was a high-ranking employee at the Prosecutor’s Office, had covered up his nephew’s crime by destroying evidence and pressuring witnesses. 

Subeliani was sentenced in March 2018 but only on charges of failing to report a crime.

After the court’s May 2018 ruling confirmed that Davit Saralidze’s killer was still at large and that the authorities had failed to identify who he was, Shotadze immediately announced his resignation as Chief Prosecutor. 

Shotadze was recently reappointed to this post despite the protest from opposition parties.

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