Pankisi residents rally, demand justice in terror-related death
Residents rallied today in Pankisi gorge’s village of Duisi in solidarity with Malkhaz Machalikashvili, whose son Temirlan Machalikashvili was shot dead during the State Security Service (SSS) operation against alleged terrorist suspects on December 26, 2017. Machalikashvili family as well as his supporters claim Temirlan’s innocence and call for punishing those government officials who have ordered and planned the operation.
“I want to directly address Bidzina Ivanishvili to recognize Temirlan as innocent. The state should admit the terrible crime that goes beyond any [legal] frames, is an inexplicable mistake of the state, and should punish every single person who has been engaged in committing this terrible crime,” Malkhaz Machalikashvili underscored in his address.
Machalikashvili reiterated his earlier calls for bringing to justice the security officer who shot his son, as well as the Head of the State Security Service, Vakhtang Gomelauri, and his deputy, Ioseb Gogashvili. He also called on the acting Interior Minister, Giorgi Gakharia to take his share of political responsibility.
Speaking on behalf of those Georgians and the Kists – ethnic kin to Chechens who reside in Georgia’s Pankisi valley – who stood in solidarity with his demands, Machalikashvili said, the December 26 incident represented “an act of terror committed by the state”. He promised to rally in Tbilisi in search of “the truth” should their demands not be met.
Zaza Saralidze, father of a teenager murdered in Khorava street case last December, was also present at the rally. Saralidze’s indignation at the alleged coverup has triggered massive rallies that gripped Tbilisi and led to resignation of Georgia’s Prosecutor General. “If we stand together, we will defeat this system and the truth will win,” Saralidze stressed.
Young activists held a parallel solidarity rally in front of the State Security Service building in Tbilisi claiming “Temirlan Machalikashvili was not a terrorist”.
Temirlan Machalikashvili was one of the five citizens of Georgia who were implicated in a double operation in Tbilisi and Pankisi gorge of Akhmeta District on December 26 on charges of assisting the group of terror suspects, who allegedly plotted attacks on diplomatic missions in Georgia and Turkey.
Machalikashvili was shot in the head during the operation. According to the State Security Service, he attempted to resist the security forces and tried to detonate a hand grenade, to which the SSS operatives responded with “proportional force.” Machalikashvili’s family members deny this and claim he was asleep when the officers entered his room and opened fire.
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