Ioseb Gogashvili, former deputy head of the State Security Service (SSG), Georgia’s domestic intelligence agency, denied having a role in the controversial detention operation of December 26, 2017, which claimed the life of Temirlan Machalikashvili, a nineteen-year-old resident of Georgia’s Muslim-majority Pankisi gorge.
Gogashvili gave a rare televised interview to Imedi TV on May 13, a week after the SSG implicated Malkhaz Machalikashvili, father of Temirlan Machalikashvili, in plotting a terrorist act in village Zemo Machkhaani of Dedoplistskaro Municipality in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti, at the grave of Ioseb Gogashvili’s father.
Machalikashvili, one of the case suspects, was shot in the head during his detention. According to the SSG, he attempted to resist the security forces and tried to detonate a hand grenade, to which the security operatives responded with “proportional force.” Machalikashvili’s family denies this and claims he was asleep when officers entered his room and opened fire. They also claim it was Gogashvili who led the operation.
The former SSG official said he was in Tbilisi during the operation, and not in the Pankisi gorge where Machalikashvili was fatally wounded. “I was not there, but I would not have hidden it – because this was a lawful action sanctioned by the court,” he said.
He also stressed the security operatives had no intention of killing Temirlan Machalikashvili. “This is a nonsense, because we were expecting to obtain the biggest amount of information from him; he was the one who helped the group [of terrorists] in opening bank accounts, transferring money, purchasing cell phones and downloading applications,” Gogashvili noted.
He also stressed Malkhaz Machalikashvili was “intentionally misled” by the United National Movement and “other persons.” “He was used by the UNM for its political purposes… [By peddling this case,] they wanted to equate their catastrophic human rights record to [today’s situation],” he said.
Gogashvili added that his and Malkhaz Machalikashvili’s lives might be “at risk,” and called on the law enforcement agencies to pay “particular attention” to their security.
“I am not a person who is going to seek revenge and I am not going to act outside the confines of the law, but if something happens to Machalikashvili, it will be me and the authorities who will be implicated, or instead, if something happens to me and it won’t be Malkhaz doing it, it will still be him who will be implicated and this will lead us to a grave situation and tensions in Georgia,” he explained.