Levan Bukhaidze, who is the key witness in a murder case of Sandro Girgvliani, said that he failed on March 9 to identify Oleg Melnikov, Deputy Chief of Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security (DCS), among four persons in a police lineup.
But later Bukhaidze told Imedi television that his failure to identify Melnikov does not mean that the latter was not among those four persons who brutally beat him and his friend Sandro Girgvliani, who eventually died, late on January 27.
On February 28, parliamentarian from the opposition Conservative Party Zviad Dzidziguri showed journalists footage of an interview with Bukhaidze. The interview was conducted by MP Dzidziguri himself. In this interview MP Dzidziguri shows Bukhaidze a picture of a man and asks Bukhaidze to identify this man. Bukhaidze replies that the man in the picture “looks very much like” one of the four men who beat the two friends. “But I am not 100% sure,” he added. Oleg Melnikov was the man in the picture.
Another statement made by Bukhaidze in the interview with Imedi television on March 9, questions testimony by key suspect into the case Gia Alana chief of the first unit of the DCS, who was arrested on March 6 together with three other officers from the same Department.
Alania claims that he met with Girgvliani while the latter was coming out of a café in downtown Tbilisi late on January 27. Alania says that he and his colleagues who were accompanying him overheard Girgvliani verbally insult Guram Donadze, by-then a Spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which irritated Alania and triggered a dispute between him and Girgvliani.
But Bukhaidze strongly denies this and claims that no dispute has taken place after he and his friend Girgvliani left the café.
Despite Bukhaidze’s failure to identify Oleg Melnikov on March 9, a statement made by another witness into the case, Tamar Maisuradze, might turn against Melnikov.
Maisuradze, who at the time was inside the café sitting at the same table with Melnikov, Donadze, Tako Salakaia, wife of Interior Minister Merabishvili, Data Akhalaia, chief of the Department of Constitutional Security and Vasil Sanodze, chief of the general inspection of the Interior Ministry, told Imedi television on March 9 that Melnikov left the café, under the pretext to buy a cigarette, immediately after Bukhaidze and Girgvliani went out.
“He [Melnikov] returned only after about 30, or 40 minutes,” Maisuradze told Imedi television and added that Melnikov explained late return by the fact that he went to a supermarket locate far away from that place because he failed to buy the cigarette he wanted in nearby shops.
“I have watched security video of that very same supermarket but I have not seen Melnikov entering [in the supermarket],” she added.