Sanaya, a popular 26-year-old Georgian journalist, was found dead in
his Tbilisi apartment. He had been shot once in the head at close range
with a 9 mm weapon. Sanaya anchored "Night Courier," a nightly
political talk show in which he interviewed Georgia's leading
politicians on the independent television station Rustavi-2.
Nika Tabatadze, news director of Rustavi-2, told CPJ that Sanaya's
colleagues became concerned when he failed to report for work at the
usual time on the afternoon of July 26 and did not answer his home or
cellular telephones. That evening, a group of co-workers went to his
apartment and knocked repeatedly on the door. When no one answered,
they called the police, who entered the apartment and discovered
In a special television address, President Eduard Shevardnadze directed
the minister of internal affairs, the prosecutor general, and the
minister of state security to oversee the investigation personally. On
July 27, President Shevardnadze met with U.S. chargé d'affaires Philip
Remler and asked for the FBI's help in the investigation, according to
Georgian and Russian press sources.
Although the police, assisted by a group of FBI agents, immediately
launched an investigation, it failed to produce significant results. A
suspect was detained in August but was later released due to lack of
evidence, CPJ sources reported.
Sanaya's Rustavi-2 colleagues firmly believe that the murder resulted
from his professional work, although they were not aware of any
specific threats against the journalist. Erosi Kitsmarishvili,
executive director of Rustavi-2, told CPJ that the murder could have
been intended to intimidate the station, which is known for its
investigative reporting on state corruption and misuse of power in
Georgia. The station has frequently been the target of government
harassment in recent years.
While Sanaya's work was not generally controversial, he had recently
hosted a segment on Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, a lawless area near the
Chechen border that is known for drug smuggling and kidnapping. A
former parliamentary deputy who appeared on the program speculated
publicly that criminals from the Pankisi Gorge region may have been
responsible for Sanaya's murder.
On December 6, police arrested former police officer Grigol Khurtsilava
after a ballistic analysis traced the murder weapon to him, the
Georgian news agency Black Sea Press reported. Acting on his
confession, police found the murder weapon and keys to Sanaya's
apartment. Khurtsilava was then officially charged with Sanaya's
murder, local and international sources reported.