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Court Finds Key Witness Mikheil Kalandia Guilty in Teen Murder Case

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On February 25, the Tbilisi City Court found Mikheil Kalandia guilty of premeditated murder of Davit Saralidze in December 2017, committed with a group of persons, and sentenced him to 15 years. However, according to the Juvenile Justice Code, his sentence was reduced by 1/4 and Kalandia will have to serve 11 years and three months in jail.

Mikheil Kalandia, one of the main witnesses in the Khorava murder case investigation, was arrested on June 4, 2019 in connection with the controversial incident of December 2017 in central Tbilisi, which left two 16 year-olds – Davit Saralidze and Levan Dadunashvili – stabbed to death.

Kalandia was arrested a day after the Court of Appeals partially took into consideration the prosecution’s arguments and re-qualified initial charges of attempted murder of Saralidze against another convict (identified as G. J.) into charge of partaking into group murder. On June 6, 2019, court sentenced him to pretrial custody.

Mikheil Kalandia does not plea guilty. His family members slammed the today’s court ruling as politically motivated, saying that they will challenge the ruling in upper instances, as well as apply to the European Court of Human Rights.

“Even if I have to go to the hell, I will do it and lead there those too, who participated in arresting my son… the decision is political,” Mikheil Kalandia’s father, Tengiz Kalandia told reporters after the ruling was announced today. “They failed to carry out the investigation so as to establish the truth. We have neither money nor acquaintances and therefore, they sacrificed us,” he added.

Mikheil Kalandia’s brother, Luka Kalandia said that “the chairperson of the Tbilisi City Court is unobjective, biased and fulfills political instructions.” “Today, the government managed to temporarily maintain power, because it avoided offending Zaza Saralidze (father of Davit Saralidze – editor’s note) and possible protests in case of Kalandia’s acquittal,” he said.

However, Prosecutor Besik Kvartskhava said that the prosecution has provided a number of “direct and indirect evidence” proving the convict’s guilt. “This verdict has confirmed that the convict and another member of the group committed a premeditated murder… this verdict confirms that the convict stabbed Davit Saralidze with a sharp object,” he told reporters.

Zaza Saralidze also attended the hearing, but he left the courtroom without making any comments. Later, his defense lawyers from the Human Rights Center said at a separate press conference that the court ruling was fair.

“Objectively, the today’s court ruling was fair and this verdict was absolutely expected, considering the entire history [of developments], and assessments of a number of various institutions and organizations,” head of the Human Rights Center, Aleko Tskitishvili said.

Earlier, on January 28, the Supreme Court found another group member – Giorgi Janashia, who had already been serving his sentence for murdering Levan Dadunashvili – also guilty of Saralidze’s murder.

But through the plea agreement between the parties, Janashia’s sentence was reduced to eight years (from 11 years and three months), from which Janashia will spend only four years in prison and the remaining four years will be considered as conditional sentence. He will leave prison in 2021.

As for another convict into the same murder case, Guga Barbakadze, the Supreme Court upheld the rulings of previous two instances, remanding Barbakadze in custody for 11 years and three months.

For more background, follow our tag on teen murder case

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