Two members of a neo-Nazi group arrested in the murder of Vitaly Safarov
The Human Rights Centre (HRIDC) stated that 25-year-old Vitaly Safarov’s murder, which occurred on 30 September, may have been motivated by xenophobia.
The two suspects that were arrested in connection to the incident are members of a so-called neo-nazi group.
Safarov was murdered on Alexander Duma Street in the centre of Tbilisi at 5 am on 30 September.
He was at a bar with friends when a dispute broke out. They continued the fight outside during the course of which Safarov suffered fatal knife wounds. Paramedics found Safarov dead on the scene.
Witnesses told journalists that several people took part in the fight.
Safarov worked in the Centre for Participation and Development. He was actively engaged in organizing tolerance camps for teenagers and participated in other projects against racism, xenophobia and discrimination.
HRIDC employees held a press conference on 11 October regarding Safarov’s murder.
Witnesses say that Safarov and his murderers were in the same bar on the night of the murder.
The conflict presumably broke out due to Safarov not speaking Georgian. The witnesses further recalled that the argument escalated with conversation turning to the “motherland and Georgian identity”.
“Taking this into account, the violence exerted against Safarov was driven by xenophobia, which is fear and/or hatred towards foreigners or people that are different,” stated the HRIDC representatives.
They further claimed that the charges brought forth under the investigation were also incorrectly qualified.
“The murder of Vitaly Safarov was committed by a group, with hooliganism sub-context, out of racial, religious, national or ethnic intolerance,” said human rights defenders.
However, the prosecutor’s office did not mention either a group crime nor ethnic intolerance in their charges.
One of the suspects is being charged with premeditated murder, while the other is charged with failing to report a crime.
The prosecutor’s office says that the investigation is ongoing and that the charges may be re-qualified should new evidence surface.
Both suspects, one born in 1995 and the other in 1998, are members of a neo-Nazi group and have participated in similar acts of violence in the past.
The HRIDC cited witnesses as saying that the criminal police as well as the emergency services were contacted on numerous occasions over the last two years regarding the two suspects engaging in violent behaviour. However, the police did not respond.
They further warned that the activities of xenophobic and fascist groups, which include incitement of hatred, have become a serious challenge for the Georgian state.