Court in Batumi sentenced Russian citizen from Chechnya, Yusuf Lakayev, to 12 years in jail after finding him guilty of attempted murder of a Georgian law enforcement officer and of illegally entering into the country.
Lakayev is wanted by Russia for a separate case as he is suspected of murdering a Russian diplomat and his wife in breakaway Abkhazia.
Lakayev, 25, was arrested in Georgia’s Black Sea town of Batumi on September 13, 2013 after a shooting incident in which three people were wounded – Lakayev himself and an officer from the Georgian counterintelligence service. According to prosecution Lakayev opened fire after the police approached him and his two Georgian companions to check his identification documents.
Lakayev’s two companions were Georgian citizens, Piruz Tsulukidze, Georgia’s Greco-Roman wrestling junior team member and his coach and religious mentor Temur Bakhuntaradze. Two Georgian citizens, who were denying charges, were acquitted in connection to illegal keeping of firearms, but were found guilty of assisting a person illegally present on the territory of Georgia and of resisting police; Bakhuntaradze was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in jail and Tsulukidze – to 2 years in jail; both of them were also fined with GEL 2,000. Nine months spent by the two men in pre-trial detention before the final verdict was announced on June 11 should form part of the punishment.
Lakayev was facing charges of attacking a law enforcement officer, but the judge ruled that at the time of committing the crime he could not have known that a plainclothes person whom he wounded was a counterintelligence officer; the judge said that Lakayev’s action was an attempted murder. He was also found guilty of illegal crossing the state border and illegal carrying a firearm.
On September 9, four days before Lakayev was arrested in Batumi, a Russian diplomat working for the Russian embassy in breakaway Abkhazia, was shot and killed in Sokhumi. Diplomat’s wife, who was wounded in the same attack, died later in hospital.
On September 19, less than a week after Lakayev was arrested in Batumi, Russia’s Investigative Committee said that it was suspecting Lakayev of murdering the Russian diplomat and his wife in Sokhumi.
In late September 2013, then Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili mentioned the arrest of Lakayev when commenting on Georgia’s cooperation with Russia in the context of providing security to the Sochi Olympic Games.
According to Russia’s Investigative Committee Lakayev was released from jail in 2011 after serving his prison term for providing assistance to illegal armed groups in Chechnya. In early 2013, he was included by the Russian security services in the list of potential threats to the Sochi Olympic Games.