A grisly murder in Tbilisi’s Courtyard Marriott Hotel is focusing attention on the issue of homosexuality in conservative Georgia.
Twenty-six-year-old French engineer Stéphane Cohen, an employee of the French transportation company Systra, was knifed to death on January 27 in his room in the posh hotel. Cohen was in Georgia to help the Tbilisi government set up a city tram system. A 17-year-old Georgian male, recorded on hotel security cameras, has confessed to Cohen’s murder.
Police say robbery was a possible motive – the detained suspect ran off with Cohen’s laptop computer, mobile phone and camera – but declined to comment further to EurasiaNet.org given the case’s “sensitive” nature and the ongoing investigation.
While questions remain about the circumstances surrounding Cohen’s murder, Tbilisi café owner Irakli Kutateladze, who describes himself as the dead man’s close friend, told EurasiaNet.org that the Frenchman met his suspected murderer through GayRomeo.com, a dating site actively used by gay Georgians. Other members of Georgia’s gay community confirmed that they saw Cohen’s profile on the dating site.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.