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Invisible Witnesses and Blind Temida

Detention of Giorgi Barateli
Madlen Macharashvili

Georgian Supreme Court passed final verdict on Guram Sharadze’s murder. The court did not satisfy the cassation appeal of the attorneys. It happened on November 14 2008. Maia Oshkhareli, chairperson of the court, judges Davit Sulakvelidze and Iuri Tkeshelashvili estimated that assassination of Guram Sharadze “was not important case for the development and establishment of single judiciary practice”   (we cannot offer the reader explanation of the verdict in popular language). Attorneys of Guram Sharadze’s family are preparing appeal to Strasbourg Court. Before the Supreme Court, district and appeal courts were discussing the murder case.


Academician Guram Sharadze was murdered at the corner of Melikishvili and Shanidze streets on May 20 2007. He was shot three times and died on the place. The accident happened at about 8:30 pm and there were people in the street who witnessed it. Patrol policemen Levan Bochorishvili and Robert Paniev also witnessed the murder. The assassination of famous scientist was recorded by a video-eye installed on the building of Insurance Company “Aldagi” in Melikishvili Avenue.

Murder on Video-Recorder

At 8:30 pm – assassination was shot by video-camera.
People are moving along Melikishvili Avenue. Cars are coming from Shanidze Street. A man with portfolio is easily noticed; another man is following with his hands in the pocket. The second person is stout with hair (pay attention he was with hair).

It is still 8:30 pm. A man with grey hair (the same man who was seen in the previous video-shot with portfolio) is followed by a young couple and a young man behind them. The latter overtook the couple and fired at the man with grey hair. The man fell down on the pavement; the murderer shot at him two more times and ran towards Shanidze Street. Soon two patrol police cars appeared in the video and one patrol policeman ran towards Shanidze Street after the murderer. Video-recording ends at it.

First Evidence – Empty Cases of Bullets

The scene of murder was searched several minutes after the accident at 8:45 pm and it lasted three hours. Specialists from the criminalist department of Tbilisi Main Department of Internal Affairs did not allow witnesses to attend the search process.

Nino Nishnianidze, attorney of the victim side explained that “the law does not demand the presence of witnesses while searching the scene of murder. However the form of the protocol has special box for “witnesses”. Representatives of investigation agencies should try to invite witnesses to attend the search process. Furthermore, I was at the place and categorically demanded them to invite witnesses; though they refused.”

The protocol of search conducted on the scene of accident in Melikishvili Avenue was drawn up. It stated that three yellow empty cases of bullets were found on the scene; one was found in the blood stain on the street after the body was removed. That day no more bullets were discovered on the scene of murder though criminalists were using SOVEREICHN FLITE, modern equipment for detecting iron items. 

It is strange that next day, criminalists found four more cases of empty bullets on the place, which were not detected by equipment the previous day. It was bullets of the weapon “TT”. The court did not see anything strange in this part of investigation. However, independent lawyers, media sources and society tried to explain the situation. When the investigation concluded that it was necessary to announce “TT” as a weapon of murder, they decided to find bullets of “TT” on the scene of murder. The proof was necessary (the bullets found on the first day were not valid for evidence because they had changed shape).

Second Complication – Murderer 

Before criminalists started to search the scene of murder, Levan Bochorishvili, patrol policeman, was chasing the murderer on Shanidze Street. Another patrol policeman Robert Paniev remained on the place.

According to the testimonies of the patrol policemen, the murderer ran to Khorava Street from Shanidze Street and then he went towards Petriashvili Street and and finally got to Barnovi Street. The police arrested the suspect near the Round Garden in Barnovi Street in mini-bus. The suspect was Giorgi Barateli.

Many people met the murderer while he was running from Shanidze Street to Barnovi Street. The people described the same person as the one on video-recording. However, he is completely different from suspect Giorgi Barateli. Attorneys of Sharadze’s family requested to interrogate the people who saw him in Shanidze Street before he ran towards Round Garden. The court did not satisfy their request and invited only those witnesses who saw Giorgi Barateli near the Round Garden. However, the court does not pay attention to the fact that testimonies of the witnesses who described the appearance of the murderer are completely contradictory. They make different testimonies about the clothes of Giorgi Barateli. Salome Nijaradze, passenger from mini-bus, said that the young man, who was sitting back in the mini-bus and later was arrested by police, was wearing dark shirt with long sleeves.

Shalva Chankotadze, driver of a taxi: “100 meters away from Melikishvili Avenue a man got in the front seat of the car while I was stuck in the traffick jam. He was about 25-28 years old with shaven hair (the murderer on the video had hair) and with dark shirt on. He took off the shirt and put it on his knees. He was wearing light blue T-shirt under it.”

Robert Paniev, patrol policeman claimed to the investigation and court that the murderer was middle-sized man, with short dark hair. He was wearing dark clothes.

Levan Bochorishvli, patrol policeman: “The man (middle-sized, thin and short hair) was wearing a black or dark blue T-shirt. He did not resist us while detention because he was wounded in his right arm.”

Paata Machaladze, patrol policeman: “We stopped minibus near the Round Garden. Policemen got in and took a short young man in black T-shirt. He was wounded in his right arm.

Badri Zurabishvili, driver of a mini-bus: At the corner of Petriashvili Street a young man of 27-28 got on the bus together with women and a man with a tie. The young man was wearing a black T-shirt and a black wastecoat.

Three witnesses are policemen; they all speak about black T-shirt instead of Barateli’s light one. One witness said that the detainee had light T-shirt on; but antoher said he was wearing a wastecoat and not a T-shirt.

Levan Bochorishvili, a policeman, was interrogated at the trial two times. His testimony on June 25 completely differs from the testimony he made on October 10. But both of them are different from the testimony he made during preliminary investigation. Levan Bochorishvili said on June 25 that: the man was dark blue shirt that was large for him; he ran towards Shanidze Street. On October 10 he said at the trial that the suspect was wearing a blue “checked shirt”. Trousers were dark. He was wearing light T-shirt under the shirt.

One more patrol policeman Zaza Kakashvili also mentioned checked shirt of the murderer and stated it to the trial: “the murderer was wearing dark t-shirt, dark trousers and blue checked shirt”. He was bleeding and his shirt was dirty with blood.

On November 5 2007 Giorgi Barateli himself stated at the trial that:”I was wearing dark blue long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans. I was wearing black T-shirt under it.”

So, only one witness speaks about light T-shirt and only his testimony is recorded in the documents.

Photo: Detention of Giorgi Barateli

Proof against Fraud Witnesses

The court did not consider these photos. However, they obviously show that Barateli was wearing white shirt while detention and not black or dark blue as patrol policemen claimed. Barateli has his hair shaven on the photo; and he had beard. He is wearing dark blue large shirt and he has not buttoned it on two upper buttons. He is wearing white T-shirt. His blue shirt has blood stains on the left side near throat and on the shoulder. There is no blood-spot on his right arm at all. The photo really exposes the detention process of Barateli because an officer from Tbilisi Criminal Police in his uniform is standing on his left. A man standing on Barateli’s right is wearing black shirt with long sleeves and black trousers. Barateli has bruises on his face.

We underline that according to the photo Barateli has blood stain on his left side. If the court had considered the photo as a proof, there would not have been a question: how Barateli got blood stain on his left side while he was wounded on the right arm based on medical examination. It is illogical that a person is wounded on the right arm and he has stains on the left side so that he had no blood on the right shirt.

Why didn’t the court envisage the details recording on video-camera?

Court did not consider the video-recording from the camera installed on the Insurance Company “Aldagi” as a proof though it shows the murder of Guram Sharadze. The argument of declining the recording as a proof was law quality of the video-recording for expertise. Nevertheless, the recording proves that the real murderer is completely different person from Barateli. We saw the video which shows the following: a man with grey hair, Guram Sharadze, is followed by a tall, stout man who has dark black hair and is completely different from Barateli. Barateli is short man of about 1, 65 meter while the murderer is over 1, 75 meter; he was taller than Sharadze. The man appears in the recording at 8:30:56 pm. He shot the man with grey hair at 8:31:28 pm. It must be noted that, 32 seconds after a car appears on the video that remains there until 8:34:46 pm. A door of the car is open; a man is getting out of the car who is speaking with another person who approaches him.

We think this detail should have been interesting for the court. Because it is very suspicious when at the moment of the murder a car stopped on the scene of murder (in the wrong traffic direction). Furthermore, the car appeared several seconds before the accident and left the area immediately after the murder.

Despite the quality of the video-recording, impartial court should have considered this proof. The court should have used all technical efforts to detect the state number of the car on the video-recording.

If the video-recording were a proof, it would reveal one more detail. Giorgi Barateli said in his testimony that he was walking in the street when he saw Guram Sharadze walking opposite him; then he passed by him… and “I stopped for a while, then turned back, followed him and shot.”

If meeting with Sharadze was unexpected for Barateli and he shot him suddenly, it should have been shown on the video-recording. However, the recording does not show anything. Giorgi Barateli stated at the trial at Appeal Court: “I met Sharadze at Rustaveli Avenue;” but after consulting with his lawyers he changed his testimony. The court considered the second statement right despite the abovementioned contradictions.

The Main Complication - Motivation of the Murder

Tbilisi City Court, with Badri Kochlamazashvili as a chairperson, concluded the reason for Guram Sharadze’s murder: he said that Giorgi Barateli shot Sharadze because the former had some argument with him. Guram Sharadze and his son, Giorgi Sharadze, created some problems in his personal life. Several years ago, Giorgi Barateli and Giorgi Sharadze were abroad together. Sharadze left Barateli there and arrived back to Georgia. Barateli had not planned the murder in advance. He made decision suddenly when he met Guram Sharadze in Melikishvili Avenue accidentally.

The court concluded the final reason for the murder based on Barateli’s confession (also based on the testimonies of the witnesses we have mentioned above though their statements are full of contradictions). The confession of Barateli is not reinforced by valid arguments and there is one question that is still unanswered: Why did the court consider his confession as evidence?


There are witnesses who allege that Giorgi Barateli went to Giorgi Sharadze in Switzerland in 2000. It was planned that Barateli would be a cameraman for a documentary film on Noe Zhordiania, the first head of the Republic of Georgia in 1918-1921. He would be paid for his job. Mamuka Barateli, Giorgi Barateli’s brother and Roland Grikurov, Giorgi Barateli’s uncle are the ones who confirm that Giorgi Barateli went to Switzerland to make the documentary film. There is Giorgi Barateli’s secret audio tape in the case. In this tape Barateli names another reason for going to Switzerland: “I met Giorgi, his (Guram Sharadze’s) son in 1996. We became friends, and then he invited me to Switzerland. He said that he had divorced his wife and wanted a friend beside him. So he asked me to visit him in Switzerland.”

The fair trial should have found out if Giorgi Sharadze was really shooting a film on Noe Zhordania in 2000 or not; the court should have ascertained if there was a special project on making the documentary film and the project details, such as the salary of camera man if he was really included in the project The court could have contacted the Georgian Consulate in Switzerland to receive this information. The consulate has this information. The court could have contacted the former consul of Georgia working in Switzerland in 2000. Giorgi Sharadze was a culture envoy in the Georgian consulate in Switzerland and the consul would recall the projects Sharadze was implementing by all means. Contacting and interrogating the consul and the employees of consulate would give a clear view of Giorgi Sharadze’s psychological conditions of that time. This is very important because Barateli is accusing Giorgi Sharadze of planning his (Giorgi Barateli’s) murder in extremely fierce forms: cutting off kidneys and organizing their selling!

There were other ways of ascertaining whether Giogi Barateli’s testimony was true or not and if he was really invited to Switzerland to make a documentary film on Noe Zhordania. Rusudan Sharadze, Giorgi Sharadze’s sister said that it was she (Rusudan) who made a serial of documentary films on Noe Zhordania and not her brother.
“My brother was making documentary films on Grigol Robakidze (the famous Georgian writer) and Khariton Shavishvili (member of Georgian Social Democratic (Menshevik) Party in 1920s) in Switzerland in 2000. He had no donor for his project.  It is not true that my brother promised Giorgi Barateli money. No one was funding my brother. He hired out his house in Tbilisi to foreigners and supported himself in Geneva with this money. Barateli was sent from studio Audientsia to Switzerland as an assistant camera man.”

It would be no problem for the court to find out whether Giorgi Barateli was sent from Audientsia or not. However, the court did not do anything for gaining information. Moreover, the court did not consider it necessary to find the person who introduced Giorgi Sharadze and Giorgi Barateli to each other. This person was mentioned in the statements of Giorgi and Mamuka Baratelis, sons of Guram Sharadze. Why did not the court wish to find this person? Would this person prove Baratelis’ statements? Surprisingly Barateli’s attorneys filed a motion of providing this person as a witness to the court. The court imposed the responsibility of presenting this witness on a trial on Barateli’s attorneys. However, later attorneys refused on their motion alleging that they could not find the witness even though all his passport data were known. However, they did not present any piece of evidence, for instance their application on the information about the witness to a district police inspector that would prove that they were looking for the witness.

Is the Key Witness Alive or Dead?

His name is Mikheil (Misha) Zhghenti. He was born in 1977. He lives on Chavchavadze Avenue, Tbilisi. He used to work in the studio Audientsia in late 1990s (he knew Giorgi Sharadze and Giorgi Barateli). Unlike law enforcers, our investigative group found Mikheil Zhghenti’s family easily. We met Nunu Zhghenti, the mother of Misha Zhghenti. She said that she had not seen her son since March 2006. She spoke with her son in April 2006 for the last time. He was calling from abroad.

Law enforcers should have interested in such a mysterious disappearance of the key witness. The mother of witness Zhghenti claims that no one has seen her son for years.

Nunu Zhghenti also said that law enforcers have never visited her family on the case of her son’s disappearance and the family has not been called to court. She knows that her son bought a mobile phone and a travel ticket to Geneva for Giorgi Barateli.
Nunu Zhghenti told us that Guram Sharadze called her husband before Giorgi Barateli left for Switzerland: “He (Guram Sharadze) asked for my husband. Vakhtang, my husband, was busy and I spoke with Guram. I asked him if he knew that his son would have a guest from Tbilisi. I told him Giorgi Barateli was going to Switzerland. He got very nervous. He said that Giorgi Barateli was a hooligan and would mess his son’s life up. I advised him to interfere and not to allow Barateli to go to Geneva. I advised him to call to the airport and make Barateli’s ticket blocked. However, then I found out that Barateli went to Switzerland either way.”

What would the court say about this testimony? Because according to Mamuka Barateli (Giorgi Barateli’s brother) it was Guram Sharadze who saw Giorgi Barateli off in airport!

To cut the long story short, the court missed the chance of finding the key witness. Apart from us the Georgian court can find a citizen of Georgia beyond the Georgian border within the frames of official treaties on cooperation with law enforcers signed by Georgia with various countries. However, the court has not used this right.

Important Circumstances that the Court Has Neglected

It is notable that the court did not pay attention to the testimony of witness Aleksandre Pirumov: “On May 14, 2007 Roland Grikurov, the uncle of Giorgi Barateli visited my house and brought Giorgi Barateli with him. He asked me to let Giorgi live in my house for a while. He explained that Giorgi’s aunt was ill and he could not stand her being injected. I agreed to host Giorgi for a while. He was working for TV Company Rustavi 2 at that time. He used to leave house at 9:00 a.m. and come back at 3:00 p.m. I have never seen a weapon in his hands but I remember that he asked me once for a piece of cloth to clean something.

At about 19:20 p.m. on May 20 someone called him and he left the house very quickly. He told me that he would be back soon. Giorgi spoke on the telephone in a loud voice and shouted at the person on the other end not to call to our house any more.
Who called Giorgi Barateli? Where did he go so quickly after the telephone conversation? The court did not ask these questions. This is very important issue because Barateli left the house several minutes before Sharadze was killed. Why and under whose order did Barateli move from his house before Sharadze’s murder? Barateli left the house (between 7:00 pm. and 8:00 pm.) when Guram Sharadze left Public Library (he used to work till late evenings in the library as usual) and walked to his house on Chavchavadze Avenue. The period between the time when Barateli left the house, according to Pirumov, and the time when Sharadze was killed was enough for Barateli to reach the place where Sharadze was killed. Who brought Barateli to the crime scene and why?

These questions as well as other important ones must be answered either here in Georgia or in Strasbourg. This must happen either now, amid this judicial system or in the future when there is fair judicial system in Georgia.

Revealing truth about Guram Sharadze’s murder will be an indicator whether Georgian Temida can stand challenges or not.

Lia Toklikishvili, leader of journalistic investigation
The investigation was conducted within the frameworks of the project Monitoring of Judicial System in Georgia by the Human Rights Centre and magazine Sitkva.

The project is supported by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation.

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