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Investigation of Georgian teenagers concluded, de facto authorities say

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, November 25
The de facto Tshkhinvali Prosecutor’s Office has finished its investigation of the case of the Georgian teenagers accused of crossing the 'border' carrying explosives, the de facto South Ossetian Deputy Special Representative on Post-Conflict Regulation Issues Merab Chigoev said on Tuesday.

“The case has been handed to the court and a hearing might be held in the next couple of days,” he noted. “I do not possess any other details on this issue,” he added.

The day before this announcement Chigoev's superior Boris Chochiev had offered the Georgian side a prisoner exchange, the Osinform news agency reported. “Considering the current realities, the South Ossetian delegation proposed at the Geneva talks on November 11 to resolve the problem of the detainees by exchanging all [prisoners] for all,” Osinform quoted him as saying. Chochiev then slammed the facilitators of the Geneva negotiations for discriminating against South Ossetian citizens and pursuing “double standards”. “It is noticeable that a division according to ethnic belonging is being applied during the Geneva format talks,” he said. “It seems that killing and kidnapping Ossetians is allowed,” he added.

According to Chochiev, at Geneva talks the Ossetian delegation raised the issue of four Ossetian citizens, one underage, detained by the Georgia in October 2008. He claimed that no action has been taken to secure their release. “We have all the evidence to prove that Khugaev, Ikaev and Pliev and Kabisov are in detention in Georgia. We will not participate in the Incident Prevention Mechanism format until we get information about them,” he said.

The Georgian side has denied imprisoning any Ossetians and demanded the “unconditional and urgent” release of the four Georgian teenagers, who were detained on November 4 at the village of Tirdznisi. The de facto South Ossetian court has sentenced them to two months of preliminary detention on illegal arms carrying and illegal “border” crossing charges. “We do not have any South Ossetian detainees in Georgia,” Chairman of the Temporary Parliamentary Committee for Territorial Integrity Issues, Shota Malashkhia, said. He called on the de facto authorities to free the Georgian teens.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that Tskhinvali is using the detained Georgian teenagers to “blackmail” Tbilisi. “Chochiev’s recent statement about exchanging all prisoners is proof of this,” Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the Georgian side has handed over to Russian troops the three Russian citizens detained on Monday night in the village of Zemo Nikozi. Shida Kartli Regional Police Department chief Vladimer Jugheli said that the Georgian law enforcers could detain dozens of people on administrative border crossing charges but are acting “humanely” and releasing them. “This is an expression of goodwill. We had all the legitimate grounds to keep them in detention; however we prefer to release them,” Nino Kalandadze of the Foreign Ministry said.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze will raise the problem of the detained Georgian teenagers during his two day visit to France, the Foreign Ministry reported. According to Nino Kalandadze the Minister will meet his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, and discuss the issue of Georgia’s de-occupation and the fulfillment of the Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire agreement.