The death of a Georgian migrant in a repatriation center in the town of Gradisca, northeastern Italy, has sparked outrage. Witnesses say that the man had been brutally beaten by ten policemen but what actually happened has not yet been ascertained. An investigation is underway for alleged murder.
The death of the Georgian migrant Vakhtang Enukidze, 38, on January 18 in a migrant repatriation center (CPR) in the town of Gradisca in northeastern Italy has come into the national spotlight in Italy.
An member of parliament (MP) from the left-wing Radicali party, Riccardo Magi, said that because Enukidze was in state custody when he died, "the state must clarify [what happened]," Magi said.
Witnesses that the MP spoke to claimed that the migrant had been brutally "beaten by 10 policemen." Some of those who gave the accounts, Magi claimed, were expelled afterwards.
"But first we interrogated them," Gorizia prosecutor Massimo Lia said, noting that an inquiry is looking at possible charges of homicide.
The autopsy will be conducted on February 3 to make it possible for a consultant chosen by the victim's family to be present.
What we know so far
According to what has thus far been established, the Georgian arrived at the Gradisca facilities in mid-December. On January 12, he allegedly attacked police personnel because he found out that he would soon be deported. Two days later, the man was reportedly involved in a brawl with another guest of the center, who was of North African origin. Enukidze was arrested and returned to the CPR on January 16. On January 18, he was taken to hospital and died there.
On January 19, MP Magi visited CPR. The following day, he reportedly went back again and collected witness statements from people staying at the center, as well as one worker there and one policeman.
Witness accounts: '10 policemen...repeatedly beat him'
Magi said that the witness accounts were unanimous. "They say that the fight with the North African did not result in any serious injuries. However, to separate the two, about 10 policemen intervened who repeatedly beat him with their forearms behind his neck and kneed him in the spine. Then they dragged him by the feet like a dog," the MP said.
"All those that saw him [when he got back to the CPR after spending two days in jail]," Magi recounted, "said that he was in critical condition, that he could not stand on his own. He asked for medical assistance but as his condition grew worse, he could no longer do so because he was unable to speak. His roommate said that over the night he was foaming at the moth and fell from his bed. He was unconscious in the morning and died a few hours later."
In addition to the witness statements, the numerous surveillance cameras in the facilities could provide key evidence.
Cause of death not yet clear
The prosecutor said that the investigation "is proceeding at a rapid pace, with the gathering of witness evidence and documents. However, only after the autopsy will we be able to ascertain the cause of his death since, so far, no one can say in detail what exactly led to the man's death."
The Georgian's sister, Asmat Jokhadze, said that "the last time I spoke to my brother was on Friday. He told me he wasn't feeling well but did not tell me why. He just said that he was taking medicine that he had been given inside the CPR and that they had increased the dosage. But he had never had problems with his health. He was strong and used to play on a football team in Chiatura, our city.''