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Ombudsperson: Delayed Probe into Kerzaia Case Made Establishing Truth Impossible

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Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said on November 29 that the late investigation into the death of Ia Kerzaia, the principal of Public School N6 in Zugdidi, “made it impossible to establish the truth.”

Ia Kerzaia died on December 9, 2018 after being reportedly pressured to join the campaign of ruling party-endorsed candidate Salome Zurabishvili in last year’s presidential polls.

Two inspectors from the Ministry of Education carried out an inspection in the Public School N6 in Zugdidi, the capital of Western Georgia’s Samegrelo region, in November 2018, ahead of the Presidential run-off. Kerzaia’s family claims the inspection was launched after the school principal refused to cooperate with the authorities and declined to join the campaign of the ruling party-endorsed candidate, Salome Zurabishvili.

The inspectors released their conclusion two weeks later, recommending the school’s governing board to dismiss the principal. Kerzaia was hospitalized with a stroke on December 2, and died couple of days later. The family claims her health condition worsened as a result of pressure coming from the authorities.

According to the case materials, Lavrenti Kiria filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education against Ia Kerzaia. It should be noted that the investigation has not proved the actual existence of a person with the mentioned name or the address specified by him.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office launched investigation with unjustified delay that “became the main reason for the unsuccessful investigation.”

The Public Defender’s Office noted that the investigation into the Kerzaia case was launched on February 11, 2019 and the video recording relating to Lavrenti Kiria was requested from the Ministry of Education only on March 7. The video had already been deleted by that time, since the Ministry keeps video recordings only for 29 days.

The Public Defender’s Office said that the video footage would have been available in case of a timely launch of the investigation on November 26-27, 2018.

“It is absolutely unclear why the investigation was not launched on November 26-27, when Ia Karzaia’s public statement had already provided grounds for it,” the Public Defender’s Office said, adding that The Public Defender will closely watch the consideration of the complaint filed by Bachana Shengelia, Kerzaia’s son, with the European Court of Human Rights several weeks ago.

The Prosecutor’s Office launched investigation into Kerzaia’s case under article 332 of the criminal code of Georgia (abuse of power). On August 19, 2019, it announced that “the investigation was suspended due to the absence of crime” into the case.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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