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Tskhinvali Refuses to Hand over Tatunashvili’s Body

The Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities refused to accommodate the request of the Georgian State Security Service (SSS) to hand over the body of Archil Tatunashvili, who died at the hands of the local security force last week.

The announcement was made by Kakhaber Kemoklidze, deputy head at the Security Service’s department of information and analysis, shortly after the technical meeting in village Ergneti, convened at the request of Tbilisi through EUMM.

“The de facto authorities have stated that they were unable to conduct an in-depth examination when they initially inspected Tatunashvili’s body, and therefore, they asked the Russian Federation to conduct the examination,” Kemoklidze told journalists, adding that the examination period, according to Tskhinvali authorities, “could last for several days.”

Asked to comment on reports that Tskhinvali authorities were intentionally delaying the process to hide traces of torture, Kemoklidze said “these doubts exist not only in Tatunashvili’s family but in all of us, since there are many unanswered questions in this case and since the statements that were made by the de facto authorities, including through the so called South Ossetia’s media, are contradictory and their allegations are nonsense.”

The Security Service representative commented on the detention of two other Georgian citizens, who were released from custody after Tatunashvili’s death but deprived of the right to leave the region, saying he demanded that Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili be allowed to travel to the Tbilisi-administered territory. “This is a classic example of the violation of their right to freedom of movement.”

Archil Tatunashvili, a thirty-five-year old native of Akhalgori Municipality in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, died at the hands of the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities following his detention on February 22. 

Tskhinvali authorities claim that during his transfer to a detention cell after being questioned, Tatunashvili fought back and “sustained injuries, was knocked down and rolled down the stairs,” after which he was taken to hospital, where he died of heart failure.

Tatunashvili’s family denies the version, saying he was tortured and killed by the Tskhinvali security forces. Public Defender Nino Lomjaria claimed Tatunashvili was already dead when he was taken to hospital and had signs of being beaten.

Archil Tatunashvili’s family members, who live in Tsilkani settlement of internally displaced persons from Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, have been requesting the transfer of his body to the Tbilisi-administered territory.

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