An autopsy report issued by the National Forensics Bureau more than five months after cameraman Aleksandre (Lekso) Lashkarava’s death on July 11, few days after homophobic mob attack on journalists, identified “the acute cardiovascular and respiratory failure developed as a result of intoxication with the drug heroin” as a cause of his passing.
But the timing and the way the report was disclosed has also raised concerns among the lawyers of the Lashkarava’s family.
Parts of the 37-page document, dated December 30 and reportedly sent to the Ministry of Interior on the same day, became available to media few hours after it came out that UNESCO had included the deceased cameraman in its observatory of killed journalists for the year 2021.
The autopsy report said that Lashkarava’s blood contained 118 nanograms per milliliter of morphine, 18.1 nanograms per milliliter of codeine, an opioid pain medication and 15.1 nanograms per milliliter of 6–monoacetylmorphine, a heroin specific metabolite.
Taking note of injuries sustained by Lashkarava when he was alive, including a hemorrhage in the left eyeball and other hemorrhages and bruises on the body, as well as a concussion, traumatic corneal abrasion, and commotio retinae as a result of a strike by a blunt object, the report said these injuries — “less severe degree of damage” — could not have caused the cameraman’s death.
The report was signed by Konstantine Tskitishvili, National Forensics Bureau expert, and Alexandre Gejadze, an independent expert appointed by TV Pirveli, Lashkarava’s employer.
Family Lawyer Reacts
Nika Simonishvili, head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and one of lawyers of the Lashkarava family, said today that the police shared autopsy report in a “completely incomprehensible and unacceptable” way, which represented “another murder of Lekso,” that also caused harm to his family.
Simonishvili stressed that the defense lawyers also learned about the document through media “even though the investigation has had the results for over a week,” highlighting that the police had not disclosed the document before the UNESCO’s decision became public.
He also recalled that back in July the police “hijacked” Lashkarava’s body despite the family’s objections for a few hours, when the law enforcement could have “manipulated on the body.”
Simonishvili also noted that the autopsy was carried out by Georgian experts in the Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau despite the Interior Ministry’s initial public and private offers to the family to have international experts’ involved in the process.
“We offered to invite American or British state experts, but the Interior Ministry refused, citing their lack of cooperation experience with them (!!!). After that we were offered the involvement of Swiss experts, who were not eventually invited,” Simonishvili said.
Aleksandre Lashkarava, camera operator of government-critical TV Pirveli, was found dead on July 11, few days after crowds against attempted LGBT+ pride parade assaulted over 50 journalists, including Lashkarava.
Soon after Lashkarava’s death, the Interior Ministry floated the idea that the cameraman died of a narcotics overdose. On the next day, police unveiled an interim post-mortem chemical expertise that found traces of several narcotics.
But Lashkarava’s family, friends and colleagues voiced distrust in the forensics and argued the authorities were attempting to discredit the deceased journalist. His mother and independent expert Gejadze, both said Lashkarava was treated with morphine for the severe pain following surgery he had to undergo after the July 5 attack.
In September, the State Inspector’s Service, a body monitoring personal data protection and probing abuse of power – that the Georgian Dream-led Parliament recently voted to be dissolved – fined the Interior Ministry for airing footage that showed Lashkarava supposedly purchasing psychotropic drugs in a pharmacy and narcotics at a drug dealer, without having any “specific and clearly defined legal purpose” for doing so.
- TV Pirveli Cameraman, Assaulted During Anti-LGBT Violence, Found Dead
- Interior Ministry Fined Over Violating Deceased Cameraman’s Data Privacy