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Crime Wave Stirs Public Outcry in Abkhazia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Jun.'17 / 17:20

Series of recent crimes have stirred up a public outcry in Abkhazia, with political parties and public organizations demanding action to stop “lawlessness” in the region.

On June 12, a thirteen-year-old girl was raped in village Lower Eshera near Sokhumi, the region’s capital. On June 17, the suspect, Astamur Jopua, who had been wanted by the local law enforcement since June 15, surrendered himself to the police. Jopua, however, plead not guilty. 

Jopua, whose brother Almas is the leader of the Ainar party and serves in the region’s legislature, worked as a security guard for Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba since 2014, but the head of the security guard claimed on June 21, that Astamur Jopua had left his job shortly before the crime, on June 8.

Five days after the crime, the victim’s sister Anzhela Jgamazia (b. 1994) was found dead, shot in the back of her head. The suspect, the victim’s father Robert Jgamazia, is presently at large. According to the local media, Robert Jgamazia’s sisters said the murder was instigated by rape suspect’s brother Almas Jopua, who had met Robert Jgamazia several times after the incident and pointed at his older daughter’s “improper behavior.”

The crimes have alarmed the public in Abkhazia. On June 19, the opposition groups, including the Amtsakhara party, the Apra foundation, as well as the organizations - Kyarazaa, Aitaira, Abzankhara and Women in Politics, released a joint statement, decrying “lawlessness” in Abkhazia and stressing on the failure of the Abkhaz authorities to duly respond to the two cases, as well as the attempted murder of 36-year-old Yulian Bobua on June 16 in the center of Sokhumi. 

“The authorities have withdrawn from fulfilling their constitutional duties. People started solving their problems on their own. Cases of extrajudicial punishment have reached a threatening scale for our small society,” the statement reads.

“The People’s of Abkhazia for Justice and Development” party issued a separate statement on June 19, also criticizing “lawlessness” in the region.

Relatives of Jgamazia family gathered in protest, demanding punishment of Astamur Jopua, as well as his brother Almas Jopua, and accusing the government of trying to cover up the crime. The protest participants turned to the region’s parliament, requesting its oversight over the investigations. On June 19, the legislature tasked its defense committee to conduct oversight of the two “heinous” crimes. 

On June 19, the region’s leader Raul Khajimba urged the law enforcement authorities to investigate the two cases with “no mercy, no excuses,” while his deputy Vitaly Gabnia said that the region’s authorities were planning to involve experts from the Russian Federation for forensic examinations “that will take place not only in Abkhazia but also in Russia.” 

As a separate development, on June 19, an explosive devise went off in Sokhumi, with the victim, Ruslan Argun, losing part of his left leg as a result. A day later, Roland Jopua, Abkhaz war veteran, opened fire in the office of the disabled war veterans of Abkhazia, firing several times. On June 22, a 50-year-old resident of Abkhazia, Gennady Sulaberidze, was shot dead in Gagra.

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