Criminal charges have been filed against a policeman in Samtredia in connection to a suicide of a 22-year-old man, who wrote in his suicide note that the policeman was coercing him to snitch on cannabis growers.
Detective inspector from regional police department in Samtredia, town in Imereti region, has been charged without being arrested with two counts – exceeding official powers with use of violence and driving a person to suicide.
Prosecutor’s Office said on August 29 the policeman remains at large.
Demur Sturua, 22-year-old resident of the village of Dapnari in Samtredia municipality committed suicide three weeks ago by hanging, leaving behind a handwritten suicide note.
In the note, photos of which were circulated by media outlets on August 12, four days after the suicide, Sturua wrote that the policeman was coercing him to inform who was growing cannabis in his and neighboring villages, otherwise threatening to arrest him on trumped up charges.
The case drew wide public attention and outcry from rights activists.
A group of activists, among them from White Noise, a movement against what it calls is “repressive and inhuman drug policies” arrived in Samtredia on August 20 and held a protest rally outside the local police headquarters, demanding arrest of the policeman named in Sturua’s suicide note.
Protesters were chanting: “down with the police regime”, “the state killed Demur Sturua”; protesters and police briefly scuffled after demonstrators spray painted graffiti on police vehicles.
Criminal charges against the policeman were brought by the Prosecutor’s Office after an official examination of suicide note confirmed its authenticity.
Results of post-mortem examination showed that Sturua had bodily injuries, indicating that he was physically abused before his death, according to a lawyer representing Sturua’s family.
“The investigation has established that inspector detective Goderdzi Tevzadze summoned Demur Sturua in the regional police department of Samtredia without any proper reason … For the purpose of his intimidation, Tevzadze drove Sturua to a sparsely populated area towards the village of Ianeti, where he threatened Demur Sturua with trumped up charges, physically insulted him and told him to cooperate with the police,” Prosecutor’s Office said, adding that after this intimidation, Sturua committed suicide.
Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, said in a statement on August 29 that the case has highlighted the pressing problem of “repressive drug policy.”
“The Public Defender has repeatedly called on the relevant agencies to abandon the established practice of repressive drug policy and make the policy more humane,” the Public Defender said.
“Timely and thorough investigation of this case is extremely important not only for establishing the cause of death of [Demur Sturua] and the alleged connection of a police officer to it, but also for fight against the systemic crime of similar nature,” he said.
“It is also equally important to study the methods applied in the police system for revealing the drug-related crime and to take preventive measures in order to minimize the cases of compulsion, abuse of authority, illegal confinement, threats of torture and other illegal actions,” the Public Defender said.
He also criticized the law enforcement agencies for a failure to detain the policeman, accused of driving Demur Sturua to suicide.
“The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the ProsecutorвЂ™s Office to use all available legal means to establish the truth in the case and to provide convincing answers to all questions regarding the case, including how it happened that the police officer, who was accused by the person who committed suicide of pushing him to the suicide, has absconded; or what did the ProsecutorвЂ™s Office do to prevent the escape of the person. It is important to find out who helped the defendant to abscond,” the Public Defender said.