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Man Charged with Pankisi Shooting, Family Feud Suspected

35-year-old Shmagi (Aslan) Mutoshvili has been arrested on September 18 and sent to pretrial detention by the Court on September 20. He is charged with attempted premeditated murder of two or more persons under aggravating circumstances and for the illegal carry of a firearm. 

The charges relate to the suspect’s alleged involvement in a shooting that targeted Kavtarashvili family house in a village of Duisi in July. The house was shot multiple times while some of the family members were inside. The shots were reportedly fired at the house after the perpetrator(s) missed Murad Kavtarashvili, their initial target, outside the house before he took shelter inside.

Mutoshvili’s arrest triggered protests in a village of Jokolo on September 20, with the suspect’s relatives demanding his release. The relatives say the charges against the family’s only breadwinner have been “fabricated” and claim there is no evidence for charges. 

According to local media reports, the shooting was a part of an ongoing family feud.

Earlier Developments

The shooting was preceded by a clash between Mutoshvili and Kavtarashvili families. Last November, the detained Shmagi Mutoshvili’s brother, Visuri (Viso) Mutoshvili, 37, was killed and three others were injured in a shooting in the village of Sakobiano of Pankisi Gorge.

Two suspects in that shooting – Arbi Kavtarashvili, 27, and Ramaz Khangoshvili, 30, were detained shortly after this incident. They were convicted by the Telavi District Court on August 24, 2020.

The latter will serve 9 years in jail on murder charges. Arbi Kavtarashvili was sentenced for 11 years imprisonment for murder, illegal carry, storage, and purchase of firearms. He is reportedly a nephew of Murad Kavtarashvili who was targeted in July.

Pankisi-based Radio Way reported that Kavtarashvilis have been attempting to reconcile with Mutoshvilis ever since the killing of Visuri  Mutoshvili, but with no success. Mutoshvili family were reportedly absent during the court trials, did not testify for the investigations, and were pushing for a blood feud. Radio Way also reported that the case is expected to be informally heard under Sharia law as well.

Several alleged reasons for the feud are circulating. One interpretation is that the clash was directly linked to the construction of the hydropower plant on the Khadori River that led to the confrontation of the locals with the police in April 2019. The Mutoshvilis were allegedly strongly against the construction of hydropower plants in Pankisi. Others say that the families of Mutoshvili and Kavtarashvili also had prior conflicts on several other issues and clashed on various occasions.  

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