Zurab Azmaiparashvili's two days in prison

11/4/2004 – FIDE vice president Zurab Azmaiparashvili was attacked by security guards. Two days later he was released by a Spanish judge and was able to return to his native Georgia. We spoke to the battered GM immediately after his release. Let us know your opinion or express your support. Here is Zurab's harrowing story.

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The following interview was conducted in the Sol Antillas Hotel in Magaluf, Mallorca, on Monday, November 1st 2004, just an hour after GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili had been released from the detention imposed on him by police officials in Calvià, Mallorca (Spain). The incarceration had lasted two days, during which the FIDE vice president was held in two different prisons. In between he was taken to a hospital for examination and finally appeared before a judge, who freed him, pending a full trial at a later date. The pictures were taken during the interview. On Wednesday Azmaiparashvili left Mallorca for Barcelona, on Thursday he flew to Amsterdam on his way back home to Georgia. We promised him that we would not publish the interview until then.

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An interview with Zurab Azmaiparashvili

Zurab, my goodness, you look quite frightening. Can you talk, can we do an interview with you?

Sure, please go ahead. I'll try to answer your questions as clearly as possible.

Well, tell us exactly what happened during the closing ceremony.

There was to be an announcement about the Gaprindashvili cup, which was to be awarded to the combined Russian teams for the best performance at the Olympiad. But they did not seem to know it, and many people were very disappointed. I first tried to talk to Mr [Antonio] Rami, who is the chairman of the organising committee…


Zurab Azmaiparashvili, telling us what happened to him during the closing ceremony

In the audience?

Yes, while the closing ceremony was being held. I told him to correct the mistake and make the announcement. Mr Rami refused, and I asked him really very politely a second time. I said if you are not going to do it maybe you can allow me, just to go onto the stage and do it myself. This is an important cup, donated by Georgia, and approved by FIDE in 1996. But he refused for a second time. After that I asked Israel Gelfer who had done most of the negotiations with the Organising Committee, if they were refusing for some special reason. Mr Gelfer told me he did not have such a good relationship any more with the organisers and that he could not help me in this matter. Then I asked Mr Campomanes, before his speech…

Was he in the audience with you?

No, no, he came forward to speak to me, and I reminded him about the Gaprindashvili cup, but apparently he forgot about it and failed to mention it in his speech. I kept trying to communicate with him, just to remind him to say something about the cup. At that point I believe that Mr Rami gave the order to stop all of my actions. A number of people came over, police, bodyguards, I really don’t know who they were, since they had civilian clothes on. They tried to stop me. I said to them “I have my duties to do, I need to talk to my boss to inform him about something. I am not going onto the stage, I just need to inform him.”

Were you not on your way to the stage?

No, just to the edge, to a place where there were no stairs up to the stage. But they kept pushing me, and pushing my wife as well, who was following me. I called out to Kirsan [Ilyumzhinov], who noticed me and started to pay attention to what I was trying to communicate. But at this moment the people around me started to react more aggressively. One of them pushed me on my chest. We came very close to each other and our heads collided. For me this was quite painful, probably for him as well. He lost control and he just hit me, immediately.


Marina Azmaiparashvili, who was also man-handled by the security guards

Let us go through this carefully: you were struggling and your heads collided? The police statement said that you butted a security official on the mouth with you head. Are you saying that that is not correct?

Absolutely. He was pushing my chest, and we came very close to each other, and our heads collided. That was the way it happened.

No aggression on your part?

Not at all, I did not want to injure him or anything. He was pushing me and I was trying to call out to Kirsan. Anyway, as soon has he hit me, another three guys joined him, and they pushed me to the floor. More people came and they tried to make me unconscious by pressing on the arteries of my neck.

They tried to close your arteries?

Yes, they closed the arteries until I felt I was becoming unconscious. Here, you can see the marks along the artery on my neck. I called to my wife: “They are killing me”, and she started screaming. Later I was told that she was taken out by bodyguards, and she showed me a number of bruises, on her legs, hands and back, from this.


The marks on Zurab's neck, where the security guards had pressed down on his artery

Anyway I said to the people on me: “What do you want to do? Are you really trying to kill me?” They pulled my hands to my back and put on handcuffs, and dragged me outside the building. I was standing there in handcuffs, and this guy came up to me and hit me on my right eye. I said: “What is going on, why are you hitting me?” Then they started to talk amongst themselves, six guys, in Spanish. Some of them said we should stop hitting him, but the others said no, we have to beat him. And this guy hit me again, in exactly the same place. And this went on six or seven times.

They kept hitting you on your right eye?

Yes, the same area, again and again, on the eye. And then I realised I could not see anything with my right eye. It was no longer painful, because I could not feel anything there anymore. And they kept using a lot of Spanish words which I maybe should not repeat…

Please go ahead.

For example they kept saying “Hijo de puta” and other such things…

That means…?

"Hijo de puta" means son of a whore, son of a bitch. Anyway, they told me to lie down on the floor, which I did. And then one of the guys beat me again, like you would do to a dog, although actually we do not do that to dogs. Then a car arrived, and they took me with the handcuffs, which were very, very painful [shows bloodshot marks and damaged skin on his wrists], and put me with my head on the floor of this car. Two guys stood on me during the trip to the police station, which was very painful for me. They put me into a room, a special room for people who have just been arrested. After a few minutes one of the guys came into the room and hit me. Then they closed the room, and a few minutes later someone came in again and hit me. I asked them why they were doing this, what was going on, but they just told me to shut up.


Documenting the different injuries received during his two-day ordeal

Then they brought me some paper which they said I had to sign. They said these are your rights, about your lawyers, which person you want to visit you here. I said I wanted to communicate with FIDE deputy president Georges Makropoulos. They wrote down the name but then said, “You have to sign this document.” It was in Spanish, so I said if I don’t understand what it says how can I sign it? They said it was nothing special, just about your lawyer and such thing, and if you will not sign we will not call Makropoulos. I understood that they would carry on the procedure and continue to beat me. So I signed the paper. Of course the next day I said I signed the paper under pressure, under clear pressure. I also asked for a doctor, because I had lost vision on my right eye.

At the police station you still couldn’t see with that eye?

No, nothing, not even light. After about three hours they provided some doctor who said I had to be taken to hospital. There they kept me for three or four hours, took x-rays and also examined my eyes. The doctor said that a vein had burst, and that there should be no permanent damage, but for a short period I would have this discomfort.

Well, I expected them to take me back to the police station, where my wife and other people were waiting. But they said “it is a very dangerous place, maybe they will beat you again there, we will take you to another station, in Palma.” They took me there, offered me some dinner, which I refused. I asked them for water, which they gave to me.


FIDE vice president Georges Makropoulos

For me it was horrible conditions, very far from democracy or human rights. I asked them if they knew that Spain is a member of the European Union. They said that in Spain they have what they have and I had to accept it. Finally they gave me back my money, which they had taken away from me at the beginning. I had 1000 Euros with me, they gave me back 840. I said I had more than this, but I did not really complain about it, I just wanted to leave the place. They said I could use my money to order some food, to order some water or some drinks. But when I got to the station they refused to do it. When I ordered some water they brought me a one litre bottle, but it only had one tenth of its contents. I did not want to drink it, because I did not know what it was. They said if you don’t want to drink this water it is up to you. If you don’t want to drink it we will not get you a fresh bottle.

This was at the police station?


Spanish police officials tell the journalists in the press center that Azmaiparashvili had provoked the action by attacking the security officers with a head butt to the mouth. The police officials issued their statement and refused to take questions or listen to testimony by witnesses.

Yes, at the second police station.

So how did you get out today?

Well, I expected it would take until Thursday, because there is some procedure. But then my two lawyers, Morten Sand and a lady from here, arranged for things to be speeded up and for me to be released as soon as possible. Today I was in court, and the prosecutor offered me a deal, which I did not accept. He wanted me to admit that I was not guilty but had made some mistakes, and then they would have no more complaints against me. I said no, I have complaints against them, and if they have something against me it should be dealt with in a proper trial and not in a one-day procedure, because there are a lot of people involved, there is a lot of material they have to collect. The judge accepted my conditions, and asked me to pay 500 Euros, just in case I do not come back for the trial or something – I did not understand it completely.


Distraught FIDE delegates Ignatius Leong and Ali Nihat Yazici discuss the events
of the evening with the president of the Spanish Chess Federation Xavier Ochoa (left)

You will come back here for a trial?

Of course I will come back, when they officially ask me to return. But before this the lawyers have to manage everything. I know that my country is very active now, Spain is receiving a protest from our foreign minister, the president, Mikhail Saakashvili, is informed. And of course FIDE is defending me. So I am not afraid.

You look quite exhausted. I think it is better we stop now and you try to relax a little before your return trip.

Believe me, I had enough time to relax, in the jail cell. You are there with nothing, no paper or pen, nothing to read. What else can you do but think and relax? Now I just want to get back home.

We wish you all the best and hope to hear from you after you are safe and sound in Georgia.


Free at last: talking to his friend Garry Kasparov, who offered him full support

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