That is one of the few things about which Georgians can agree as they try to make sense of the mysterious gunshot to the head believed to have killed Kitsmarishvili, a co-founder of Georgia’s influential national broadcaster Rustavi2 and the supposed media-mind behind the 2003 Rose Revolution.
But the accuracy of the widespread supposition that suicide had nothing to do with this controversial businessman’s July-15 death could become increasingly sensitive — both for the Georgian government’s claims that, with an EU Association Agreement in its pocket, it can conduct impartial, fact-based investigations, and for the scandal-weary public’s trust in elected officials.
Investigators have filed a criminal case related to suicide, but claim that they are considering suicide as only one of the probable causes of death.
Shortly after a telephone call with a friend, Kitsmarishvili was found dead yesterday afternoon in his car, parked in the underground garage of his apartment building in an elite Tbilisi neighborhood. The prosecutor’s office has announced that a firearm found in the vehicle, and allegedly registered in Kitsmarishvili’s name that same day, “probably” fired the shot that killed him.
Police and a video-surveillance camera have been stationed outside the Tbilisi firearms store where Kitsmarishvili allegedly purchased the gun registered in his name, the news weekly Liberali reported. The prosecutor’s office had no information about the proceedings, it added.
An autopsy, apparently, already has been concluded, according to one independent medical expert retained by the Kitsmarishvili family. Details have not been released.
Kitsmarishvili’s political allies (he recently lost a mayoral race in his native Rustavi) have complained that the government is pursuing suicide as a face-saving measure.
In the scramble for explanations, some foreign news outlets have headlined Kitsmarishvili’s seven-month status as Georgia’s ambassador to Russia during the two countries’ brief 2008 war, but local media has paid little or no attention to that.
As one commentator noted on a late-night Imedi TV talk show on July 15, the energetic Kitsmarishvili had ties — and disputes — in so many different directions that identifying the reason for murder could be complicated.
But in this TV-obsessed country, it’s Kitsmarishvili’s ongoing broadcast battles that draw attention.
Little suggests that he thought matters had improved under the Georgian Dream.
In an interview published in the July 14 version of the weekly PrimeTime, the businessman claimed that any decision about his ownership stakes in Rustavi2 will be “a classic political decision and not a judicial one.”
“I can tell you with a 100-percent guarantee that not a single step is taken in media in Georgia, nothing will happen, without the government ruler’s permission.”
In Georgian shorthand, that usually means ex-Prime-Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition. Ivanishvili, who plans to launch a TV talk show this fall, has not yet commented publicly about Kitsmarishvili’s death.
Government officials have called for the public to refrain from speculation about the cause of Kitsmarishvili’s death, emphasizing that the investigation is ongoing.