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The News in Brief

Wednesday, May 14
Breakaway Abkhazia signs cooperation memoranda with Italian cities

Abkhazia has signed a cooperation memorandum with several Italian cities including Sant`Antioco and San Giovanni. According to the document, three cities of Georgia`s breakaway Abkhazia, Sokhumi, Bitchvinta and Akhali Atoni will have friendly relations with the occupant regime, the representatives of which visited Italy. The memoranda were signed by the mayors of the cities. In addition, the official website of the municipality of the city of San Giovanni has mentioned Abkhazia as an independent republic at the border of the Russian Federation. (Rustavi 2)

Israel's ex-Prime Minister sentenced to six years in jail

Israel's ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in jail on Tuesday for taking bribes in a massive real estate deal, a crime the judge said was akin to treason, Reuters reports.

The first criminal conviction of a former Israeli head of government all but ended speculation that Olmert - a centrist credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians - might return to political life.

He had denied any wrongdoing in the property deal that took place while he was in his previous post of Jerusalem mayor.

"A public servant who takes bribes is akin to a traitor," said Judge David Rozen of the Tel Aviv District Court.

"(Olmert) is a criminal who devoted most of his time to praise-worthy public service. (But) he also lined his own pockets," he said in passing sentence.

Rozen ordered Olmert to report to prison on September 1st, effectively giving his lawyers time to lodge what they said would be an appeal to the Supreme Court and a request that he remain free until it rules. (IPN)

EUMM calls for leniency towards ‘jonjoli’ pickers

In light of the unlawful detention of "jonjoli” pickers in the Sachkhere area, near the de-facto South Ossetian border, the European Union’s Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) is calling on all parties to show consideration and understanding before any detention is made.

The EUMM has warned pickers to be more careful of where they gather "jonjoli” and asked Russian border guards to be more lenient and not detain the gatherers unlawfully.

"For many families living along the Administrative Boundary Line with South Ossetia, "jonjoli” picking is a key source of income.

Considering its importance to the livelihood of local people, the Mission urges all parties to show understanding towards pickers who may stray across the Administrative Boundary Line with South Ossetia,” the EUMM said in a written statement today.

On May 2 the first group of "jonjoli” pickers were detained. Since then the EUMM has recorded five separate incidences of detention involving 26 local villagers.

"The hotline, which is part of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) and offers parties a platform to exchange information, has been in daily use, but to date 18 people are still in detention,” the EUMM said.

The EUMM called for the prompt release of all ‘jonjoli’ pickers still in detention.

The latest incidence of unlawful detention by Russian border guards happened earlier today where seven "jonjoli” pickers from the Sachkhere province were detained. (

Georgian Interior Ministry negotiates for release of Georgian citizens in Tskhinvali

The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs is negotiating for the release of Georgian citizens detained by Russian soldiers and held in Tskhinvali.

As the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs Alexander Chikiadze told journalists commenting on the detention of the Sachkhere residents on the border of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, namely his ministry is primarily responsible for the security of the citizens

"It's a part of Georgia, our own land, but as you know, it is occupied. I think that in most cases, our citizens do not know where there is the so-called administrative line and accidentally cross it, and the representatives of the de- facto authorities detain them. The negotiations are under way in order to return back our citizens as soon as possible and safely, for whom our department is primarily responsible," he said.

At present, there are about 20 Georgian citizens at the Tskhinvali detention center for border violation of separatist South Ossetia.

Large scale military actions were launched in South Ossetia on August 8, 2008. Later, Russian troops occupied Tskhinvali and expelled the Georgian military.

Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in late August. In response, Tbilisi broke diplomatic relations with Moscow and has called the two unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories. (