Grenade Suspect in Custody, as Investigation “Moves towards an End”

The Interior Ministry has issued this photo
showing the suspect on Freedom Square
with a red handkerchief in his hand.
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said on July 23 that the investigation into the Bush grenade incident will soon be over after investigators pinpoint possible accomplices of the crime if there were any.

Tbilisi City Court sentenced Vladimer Arutunian, who is suspected in the Bush grenade incident, to three-month pre-trial custody on July 23. Criminal charges were brought against Arutunian, who is currently in the hospital, for premeditated murder in connection to the killing of a security official during the shootout when the police tried to capture him late on July 20. No charges have been filed against Arutunian for the grenade incident yet. Investigators are still searching for a motive in the case.

“We are now trying to identify all the possible links of the suspect, or his possible accomplices,” Vano Merabishvili said.

On July 23 the Interior Ministry issued footage through Georgian television stations of a short interview with Vladimir Arutunian in which he confirms a previous confession about an attempt on the life of U.S. President George W. Bush when the latter was delivering speech on Freedom Square in Tbilisi on May 10.

The footage shows Arutunian in a hospital room. In the interview the suspect speaks in Russian: “I was trying to toss a grenade into a place between the sheets of bulletproof glass from where the shrapnel from a grenade could reach Bush,” Arutunian said.

According to the Georgian Interior Ministry the hand-grenade, which landed just 30 meters away from the site from where President Bush was standing, was tossed two and a half minutes after Bush started his speech. According to the FBI, the grenade was live but simply failed to detonate.

The Interior Ministry’s photo of the grenade,
which was removed from Freedom Square,
bears the timestamp of May 10, 2005, 13:59.
“One of the reasons for its failure to explode could have been the fact that the grenade was wrapped in a handkerchief, which prevented if from hitting the ground with sufficient impact,” Merabishvili told Rustavi 2 television on July 23. Reportedly, the hand-grenade used by the suspect was an Armenian-modified version of the RGD-5.

According to the Georgian daily Rezonansi, the major question now remains whether the suspect acted alone, or whether he had accomplices. “It is unknown how a person [Vladimir Arutunian], whom neighbors describe as ‘unemployed and very poor,’ could afford to obtain arms,” Rezonansi wrote on July 23.

Several hand-grenades, uniforms, a night vision device and several gasmasks were captured on video footage shot in Arutunian’s apartment by the Interior Ministry. Police said the suspect also had a Kalashnikov assault riffle.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has issued some of the details of the investigation which led law enforcers to pinpoint the suspect. The photos of the suspect which were issued by the Interior Ministry on July 18 were shot, according to police, by a Polish photographer who was sitting near the place where Arutunian was standing on Freedom Square on May 10. According to the Interior Ministry a total of about 10,000 people were questioned regarding this case.

Tens of thousands of people gathered at Freedom Squareon on May 10  to attend the Georgian and U.S. President’s public speeches. Security at the event was extremely tight.

In the morning of May 10 people wishing to attend the two presidents’ addresses could enter Freedom Square only from Rustaveli Avenue and only after passing through specially set up metal detectors. These detectors slowed the crowd of thousands fromgetting to the square and a result, by noon security forces decided to remove the metal detectors.


Back to top button