Top-level officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), who were allegedly linked to the high-profile murder scandal, were suspended from office on March 13 pending investigation of Sandro Girgvliani murder case. Decision was made after the Public Defender issued a tough-worded statement on the Interior Ministry earlier on the same day.
Data Akhalaia, chief of Department for Constitutional Security (DCS) and Vasil Sanodze, chief of the general inspection of the Interior Ministry, announced at a news conference that they have nothing to do with Sandro Girgvliani murder case, but decided to resign as they have a sense of “moral responsibility.”
“We have nothing to do with the crime committed on January 28 [murder of Sandro Girgvliani], neither direct, nor indirect. It might be a surprise for certain [persons], but solving of this [criminal] case was made possible as a result of our efforts. Despite this, as we feel morally responsibility towards the society, our government and our families, we have decided to appeal the Interior Minister [Vano Merabishvili] to suspend our duties,” Data Akhalaia stated at a news conference on March 13.
“I can say the same. I deemed it necessary to appeal the Interior Minister with the request to suspend my duties,” Vasil Sanodze stated.
No other comments were made as both Sanodze and Akhalaia left the press conference without answering journalists’ questions. The Interior Ministry’s press office reported that Oleg Melnikov, an employee of the Department for Constitutional Security was also suspended from the office. Melnikov reportedly could have also been linked to this murder case. Earlier media sources were reporting that Melnikov was Akhalaia’s deputy, but the Ministry’s press office denied this reports and said that Melnikov is an “ordinary employee” of the DCS.
Opposition parliamentarians, who have been long demanding dismissal of these officials, said Akhalaia and Sanodze’s decision was a result of pressure exerted by the society on the Interior Ministry.
“We can only welcome this decision, which will definitely defuse political tensions… But now it is very important to follow investigation of this case, so that to make sure that all those who masterminded this [murder case], if there are any, are prosecuted,” MP Koba Davitashvili, leader of opposition Conservative Party, told reporters.
Police arrested four officers from the Interior Ministry’s Department of Constitutional Security on March 6 for suspicion of committing Girgvliani’s murder. But the relatives of a victim claim that the crime was ordered by higher level officials, including Akhalaia, Sanodze and Donadze.
Statement made by Akhalaia and Sanodze was not a surprise especially after Public Defender Sozar Subari said earlier on March 13, that “those officials, who are suspected by society of having links with this [murder] case [Girgvliani], would have been resigned in any democratic state, or in a state which has an ambition to be a democratic.”
Guram Donadze, ex-spokesman of the Interior Ministry, was also sacked on March 7 after the Public Defender criticized him of misleading investigation over Girgvliani case. Donadze, who was also allegedly linked to this high-profile murder, was sacked by Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili under the pretext of having “conflicting relations” with journalists.
In the March 13 statement Sozar Subari also warned that the Girgvliani murder case has “challenged successes of the authorities.”
“Success in fight against corruption, drug trade, terrorism, organized crime has been questioned, because it is difficult to believe in a success achieved by the hands of cold-hearted murderers,” Sozar Subari said.
Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze also welcomed Sanodze and Akhalaia’s announcement as “a morally correct decision.”
“Investigation will answer all those questions which are a source of public concern… It is of vital importance for our government and for the Interior Minister to investigate this case and to answer all questions,” Nino Burjanadze told reporters.