Suspect convicted in television journalist’s murder

New York, July 11, 2003—A Georgian court sentenced former police officer Grigol Khurtsilava on Wednesday, July 9, to a 13-year prison term for the July 2001 murder of popular television journalist Georgy Sanaya. Sanaya anchored “Night Courier,” a nightly political talk show on the independent television station Rustavi 2 in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.

The journalist was found dead in his Tbilisi apartment on July 26, 2001. He had been shot once in the head at close range with a 9 mm weapon. Khurtsilava, a former police officer, was arrested for the murder in December 2001.

The Gldani-Nadzaladevi District Court also found Khurtsilava guilty of robbing Sanaya and of possessing weapons illegally.

Although the court ruled that the murder was not politically motivated, the journalist’s widow, Khatuna Chkhaidze, maintains that he was killed for his work, and that the mastermind behind the murder remains unpunished, according to Georgian and international news reports.

Chkhaidze claims that her husband’s investigative journalism into ties between top Georgian government officials and Chechen separatists in Georgia’s restive Pankisi Gorge is the true motive for the murder, and Sanaya’s colleagues at Rustavi 2 have echoed these concerns.