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Okruashvili Remarks Revive Debate on Zhvania’s Death
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Sep.'07 / 15:31

Although lacking any evidence, Irakli Okruashvili’s claim that the evidence surrounding the death of the late prime minister, Zurab Zhvania, was fabricated, was “very important,” the former PM's relatives said on September 26.

Speaking in an interview with Imedi TV on September 25, Okruashvili, who was Defense Minister at the time of Zhvania’s death, claimed that Zhvania’s corpse had actually been brought into the flat where it was apparently discovered. He added, however, that he was not prepared to speculate on the issue and refused to say “that Zhvania was murdered.”

Zhvania’s relatives claim that the late PM was murdered and the corpse moved to the concerned apartment as no fingerprints were found there.

“He has to provide evidence to back up what he has said; if he fails to do so it will put him in an uneasy position,” Nino Kadagidze-Zhvania, the widow of the late PM told Rustavi 2 TV. “I do not, however, think he is the kind of person to put himself in such a position.”

Goga Zhvania, the late PM’s brother, said it was “very important” to hear a former government insider making this statement.

“Okruashvili possesses lots of information and when such a person says the same [as the family], this is very important,” Zhvania told Imedi television on September 26, “but it will be even more important if concrete evidence is produced.”

The late PM’s brother said he would seek a meeting with Okruashvili to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Goga Zhvania met on September 26 with a lawmaker from the ruling party, Elene Tevdoradze, who had close political links with Zhvania in the past.

Tevdoradze said on September 26 that “it is probably necessary to ask some questions of the prosecutor’s office.”

Other politicians with close links to Zhvania in the past, however, were more critical about Okruashvili’s claim. Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Mikheil Machavariani said on September 26 that Okruashvili was using Zhvania’s death for his own political ends.

“Zhvania was not killed,” Kakha Bendukidze, the state minister in charge of reforms said. “It was a fatal incident.”

According to the official preliminary conclusions (the General Prosecutor’s Office still hasn't published its final findings) the late PM died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty gas heater. The heater had been improperly installed in the apartment where Zhvania's body was reportedly found on February 3, 2005 in the Saburtalo district of the capital, Tbilisi. Along with Zhvania, Deputy Governor of Kvemo Kartli region Raul Usupov was also found dead in the same apartment, also reportedly killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

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