High-profile investigation of Pankisi youth murder closed, father pledges to bring case to ECHR
The Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office has closed the investigation looking into the death of 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was shot in his bed at the end of 2017 during a counter-terrorism operation in Georgia’s Pankisi region.
The office says it found no signs of illegalities during the operation, and that the special forces agent who shot Machalikashvili did so after demanding Machalikashvili surrender and then allegedly firing upon seeing a grenade in his hand.
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The death of Temirlan Machalikashvili is one of the most controversial incidents to take place during the reign of the Georgian Dream party.
After a wound to the head, the 19-year-old resident of the Pankisi Gorge was in a coma for several days and died without regaining consciousness on January 10, 2018.
The anti-terrorist operation carried out in Pankisi raised questions of the excessive use of force.
Law enforcement agencies say Temirlan Machalikashvili maintained ties with a certain terrorist group, which is categorically refuted by family members, who also deny the existence of a grenade in their son’s possession.
Temirlan’s father, Malkhaz Machalikashvili has held a protest for more than two years, and pitched a tent in the center of Tbilisi near the parliament building, demanding an objective investigation.
Human rights activists also doubt the official version, believing that the prosecutor’s office did not provide evidence of either Temirlan Machalikashvili’s connection to the terrorists or the existence of a grenade, which he allegedly intended to detonate.
Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has begun considering the case of Machalikashvili and Others v. Georgia.
Until now, Temirlan Machalikashvili’s affair was classified as “secret.” Its status was removed after the recommendation of the ECHR and became public, thanks to which experts from the non-governmental organization Center for the Study of Human Rights and Monitoring (EMC) were able to familiarize themselves with the case materials. In their opinion, the prosecutor’s office conducted the investigation ‘only formally.’
The opposition has called the decision to end the investigation, in which many questions remain unanswered, ‘another arrogant trick of the authorities.’
Malkhaz Machalikashvili, in turn, said that he knew about the intention of the prosecutor’s office to close the case. Now he says he will lay his hopes for justice with the ECHR.