Irakli Kvaratskhelia, a 29-year-old Georgian citizen, died under unclear circumstances in his native Gali district of Abkhazia shortly after his detention, raising doubts in Tbilisi that the man was beaten to death.
The State Security Service, Georgia’s domestic counter-intelligence, was first to announce Kvaratskhelia’s death on March 12, citing information provided by Sokhumi through the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM).
According to the State Security Service, Abkhaz authorities informed the EUMM that Irakli Kvaratskhelia committed suicide while in custody.
The EU Monitoring Mission confirmed Kvaratskhelia’s death in a statement on March 13, saying it learned about the death through the Mission-managed hotline. The EUMM added that it will follow the developments closely.
In a telephone interview with Rustavi 2 on March 13, a person identified as Kvaratskhelia’s friend, said Kvaratskhelia was trying to cross into the Tbilisi-administered territory, when he was arrested and transferred to a nearby Russian military base, where he was reportedly beaten.
A similar version was proposed by Rezo Kobalia, a representative of the Tbilisi-based government of Abkhazia (in-exile) in Samegrelo region. Kobalia said Kvaratskhelia was arrested by the Russians on March 10 near village Nabakevi when he was trying to cross into Georgia proper, and died in custody a day later.
Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili and Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani issued statements on Kvaratskhelia’s death, extending condolences to the family and pledging to inform the international community over the development.
Gali district is home to some 40,000 ethnic Georgians, who make up almost all of the district’s population.