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Tskhinvali releases three more Georgians

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, May 14
The de facto South Ossetian authorities freed three Georgian detainees on Thursday and handed them over to observers from the EU Monitoring Mission at the village of Ergneti. 23-year old Levan Biginashvili, 24-year-old Aleko Didebashvili and 35-year-old Merab Tvauri, residents of the village of Tvaurebi in the Kaspi region, were detained on September 4, 2009 and charged with “illegal border crossing” and “illegal cutting of wood” on de facto South Ossetian territory, according to the RES news agency.

“This step once more proves that the South Ossetian side aspires to continue working on freeing detainees and searching for the missing people,” David Sanakoev, the de facto representative of the so called South Ossetian President in Human Rights Issues, told RES.

On May 2 de facto South Ossetian officials had freed three Georgian citizens “as a sign of goodwill”. This decision was made during the visit of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg to Tskhinvali. 23-year-old Levan Biganov, 25-year-old Jamlet Jamrishvili and 37-year-old Genady Tsiklauri had been detained on October 29 on “illegal border crossing” charges.

Head of the Shida Kartli Department of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs Vladimer Jugheli said that exchanges of detainees do not take place because “the Georgian side has no South Ossetian detainees”. He noted that the former detainees’ health condition is “normal”. Biginashvili, Dilebashvili and Tvauri were questioned at the Gori Regional Police Department and later released to their homes, according to Shida Kartli officials. The de facto South Ossetian authorities claim that Tbilisi has been detaining three South Ossetian residents, Alan Khachirov, Alan Khugaev and Soltan Pliev, since they were arrested by Georgian law enforcers in October 2008. However the Georgian Interior Ministry denies this allegation, saying it is “a lie”.

Deputy Governor of Shida Kartli Giorgi Avaliani has said that five Georgians are still in detention in Tskhinvali prison and will be freed, but he was not able to give a specific date. “As far as we know, Thomas Hammarberg has reached agreement with the de facto authorities about freeing all illegally detained citizens of Georgia. So we can say that their release is just a matter of time. The negotiations will go on until all of them are freed,” Avaliani told The Messenger. As for the claims of the de facto authorities that South Ossetian “citizens” are detained in Tbilisi, he stated that the Tskhinvali officials are trying to exchange “detained peaceable Georgian citizens” with “Ossetian criminals detained by Georgian law enforcers at different periods.” “Those criminals do not have anything to do with the war. They were detained for crimes, not crossing the administrative border, like the Georgian citizens were,” the Deputy Governor stated.

The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia welcomed the release of three Georgian citizens. “The Mission hopes that this is the prelude to the release of all those detained since the 2008 conflict by the de facto South Ossetian authorities for various administrative reasons,” the EUMM statement reads. “This step has already been taken by the Georgian authorities. In future the public living in the adjacent areas should not fear detention if they inadvertently transgress the administrative boundary line,” the EUMM stated.