Brother of late Georgian Prime Minister insists he was assassinated

The brother of Georgia's late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania on Tuesday dismissed the authorities' assertion that he died from carbon monoxide poisoning and insisted that Zhvania was assassinated.

Prosecutors in April announced that FBI forensics tests had confirmed Zhvania's Feb. 3 death was caused by carbon monoxide, as an earlier Georgian investigation had concluded. Authorities said an improperly ventilated gas heater was apparently at fault.

Suspicions had been lingering, however, that 41-year-old Zhvania was the victim of foul play. His friend Raul Usupov, whose Tbilisi apartment he was visiting, also died.

Despite the U.S. and Georgian inquiries, Zvania's brother Giorgi said Tuesday he still suspected his brother and Usupov were killed and were brought to the apartment afterward.

"I have absolutely no confidence in the prosecutor's office, which at best has conducted the investigation into the murder of my brother and Raul Usupov unprofessionally," he told The Associated Press. "I do not rule out that they were killed in a different place."

Giorgi Zhvania claimed the FBI investigation had not detected a fatal carbon monoxide level in the bodies, and that there had been no trace of his brother's fingerprints in the apartment where the bodies were found.

"I intend to appeal to the Georgian president to order a new independent investigation under the auspices of the European Union," Zhvania said.

Legislator Elena Tevdoradze also has called for a new investigation, accusing officials of a cover up and saying Zurab Zhvania was killed to weaken the president in this former Soviet republic in the Caucasus.

Zhvania, along with President Mikhail Saakashvili, was a key leader in the weeks-long street protests known as the Rose Revolution, which toppled former President Eduard Shevardnzdze and paved the way for Saakashvili's election in January 2004.


On the photo: funeral ceremony on Georgia's late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania's death

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