Thirteen Year Wait for Justice
Author: By Joseph Alexander Smith
As the government continues to investigate crimes committed under the previous administration, the family and friends of murdered journalist Giorgi Sanaia continue their long wait for answers.
“The public reaction was huge, massive,” says Lika Basilaia-Shavgulidze, former colleague of Sanaia, as she recalls the days after his killing in July 2001. “There were maybe hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens on the streets on the day of his funeral.”
Sanaia was one of Georgia’s most popular and recognizable media personalities at the time, and as anchorman of Rustavi 2’s Night Courier news program, he was the public face of a TV channel that was challenging the corruption and ineptitude of key officials in President Eduard Shevardnadze’s government.
When Sanaia was found dead in his Tbilisi apartment with a single gunshot to the back of the head, many believed his murder could only have been politically motivated, a result of his interest in the murky and politically sensitive situation in the lawless Pankisi Gorge. His funeral turned into a public demonstration of anger against Shevardnadze’s government, with many journalists claiming the killing had been directly ordered by officials.
Shevardnadze himself denied that the killing was political. “According to my sources,” he told TV cameras, “the killing was the result of some emotional outburst.” What he meant by this later became clearer. In December 2001, the police arrested Grigol Khurtsilava, a former guard at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Khurtsilava admitted guilt, showing police where he had disposed of the murder weapon and Sanaia’s apartment keys.