Law

Georgia police seize body of cameraman who died after violent assault by homophobic mob

Patrick Kelleher July 13, 2021
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Alexander (Lekso) Lashkarava Georgia Tbilisi

Alexander (Lekso) Lashkarava died after he covered the violent protests at Tbilisi Pride. (Twitter)

Police in Georgia have seized the body of Alexander Lashkarava, the cameraman who died after being violently assaulted while covering the far-right attacks against Tbilisi Pride.

Lashkarava was found dead on Sunday morning (11 July) by his mother, just six days after he was beaten relentlessly by the far-right mob that unleashed violence on Tbilisi in response to a planned LGBT+ Pride march.

On Monday (12 July), police in Georgia entered Alexander Lashkarava’s home and forcibly removed his body, which was contained in a bag, in front of crowds of journalists, despite his family’s objections.

The cameraman’s family had resisted a state-led autopsy, fearing Lashkarava’s real cause of death could be deliberately hidden by the government that is being widely blamed for his death.

Georgia’s government claimed Alexander Lashkarava had drugs in his system

In a statement on Monday (12 July), Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement that independent experts were carrying out an examination of Lashkarava’s body “to determine the actual cause of death”.

The government department cited a chemical report that found Lashkarava had a number of drugs, including morphine, codeine and tetrahydrocannabinol in his system at the time of death.

“According to the examination, the cause of death may have been an overdose by the mentioned substances,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

In a lengthy statement, the ministry said its investigations had discovered that Lashkarava purchased “psychotropic drugs and disposable syringes” in the hours before his death.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has shared CCTV footage of Lashkarava in his final hours.

Five people have been arrested for the assault on Lashkarava and the TV Pirveli crew, which occurred after Tbilisi Pride was cancelled due to far-right activities in the city.

Lashkarava sustained broken bones in his face and a concussion after a mob broke into the offices of the Shame movement last Monday (5 July), where he was working with journalist Miranda Bagharturia.

Bagharturia said she and Lashkarava were cornered by the violent mob. The cameraman intervened when a priest grabbed her by the hair, prompting the mob to turn their attentions to him.

He was subsequently beaten for 20 minutes, leaving him in “a pool of blood”, Bagharturia said.

Lashkarava’s death has sent shockwaves through Georgian society. Human rights activists have staged protests both outside the country’s parliament and inside the chamber, with many calling on prime minister Irakli Gharibashvili to resign.

TV Pirveli owner Vato Tsereteli accused Gharibashvili of being “personally responsible” for Lashkarava’s death at a protest on Sunday (11 July). The government is being held responsible by activists who claim they did little to stop the far-right mob that descended on the city on the day of Tbilisi Pride.

Gharibashvili faced resounding backlash when he hit out at Pride organisers, saying it was “unreasonable” of them to hold a march in the first place.

He later claimed 95 per cent of the population is opposed to “propagandistic” Pride marches.

 

 

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