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Pankisi people accused of terrorist activitiy sentenced to jail

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Tuesday, March 8
Tbilisi City Court has sentenced individuals accused of terrorist activity to jail on March 7. According to the court’s verdict, Ayup Borchoshvili was sentenced to 14 years in prison, while Giorgi Khutunishvili was sentenced to 11 and Davit Pirisebia to 10; all are residents of Georgia’s Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge.

The court said the three encouraged local youth to join the radical Islamic State.

Borchoshvili - who was arrested in June 2015 - in his final speech after court adjourned, claimed that he was innocent.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I had never had any kind of bad intentions toward Georgia. I wish that I was not declared a criminal who was acting against his own country,” said Borchoshvili.

Other imprisoned individuals stated that neither they nor other people who have left to Syria have any kind of connection with terrorist groups.

“Those who go to Syria, they join the Free Army, which is supported by the government of the United States of America. These people are not linked to the Islamic State,” they stressed.

According to lawyer Gela Nikolaishvili, the Free Army is fighting against Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad and the Islamic State.

“The Free Army is even supported by several world powers,” the lawyer stated.

Pankisi Gorge has always been a cause for concern as dozens of young men have left for Syria and Iraq to join the radical Islamic State. The Government has carried out several amendments in the law and introduced restrictive legislation to prevent the flow.

Locals state that in several cases, the hard economic situation was a motivating factor for the youth to join the radicals.