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Leri Khabelov – Persecuted on Political Grounds

06.09.2010

Mari Otarashvili

“I have left Georgia because of personal security. But, I want to return there,” said the former vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Georgia Leri Khabelov in his interview with Ossetian media sources; he added that he would be able to return to Georgia when the government changes.

When speaking about Leri Khabelov political parties and non-governmental organizations cannot agree with each other and cannot name the exact reason why he left Georgia.

The Olympic champion, five-time world champion and three-time European champion Leri Khabelov, who gained those victories for Georgia, reported to the newspaper “Vzgliad” that Saakashvili’s government expatriated him from Georgia; so he has to live in Vladikavkaz now.

“The government of Georgia cannot understand one thing: permanent quarrel and tense relationship with neighbors are impossible,” said Khabelov in his interview.

Before him, Ossetian businessman Gocha Dzasokhov, who lived in Georgia but now has left the country, blamed the government of Georgia in persecution of ethnic Ossetian people. He now lives in Moscow. Dzasokhov said in his interview with the newspaper “Segodnia” that the government of Georgia terrorized former vice-president of Olympic committee because of his Ossetian ethnicity; consequently, Khabelov had to flee to Tskhinvali where he lived in the tent for refugees before moving to Vladikavkaz.

Dzasokhov fled to Moscow directly from Beijing Olympiad where he attended the games as a head of the sport-society “Dinamo” Ltd.

Dzasokhov said that “Saakashvili organized Bartolommeo Night for Ossetian people.”He could not use Dzasokhov against his people and sequestered his business.”

Dzasokhov also said that Georgian army destroyed Tskhinvali and Ossetian village Dmenisi: “Tskhinvali was on fire and Dimitry Sanakoev was speaking in the megaphone that he was the governor in Tskhinvali now and everybody had to obey his orders.”

Head of the non-governmental organization “Friendship Bridge – Kartlosi” Megi Bibiluri said that both Gocha Dzasokhov and Leri Khabelov were not victims of persecution on ethnic grounds in Georgia.

Megi Bibiluri:  “Our organization has information about Khabelov and I can state that he was not victim of ethnic persecution. Khabelov had his personal problems and nothing more. He cannot arrive in Georgia now because of his personal conflicts and not because he is ethnic Ossetian".

Unlike Bibiluri, president of the International Association of Ossetian Women in Georgia Izolda Tigieva thinks that Leri Khabelov cannot arrive in Georgia because of persecution on ethnic grounds.

Izolda Tigieva:  “I have heard about it many times and I believe that facts of persecution of ethnic Ossetian people in Georgia are not strange at all. I was also persecuted but I try not to pay attention to it; I have put up with the situation and I know it will continue like that until real democracy is established in Georgia.”

Expert Mamuka Areshidze underscored that Leri Khabelov was persecuted not on ethnic but political grounds. He cannot arrive in Georgia because of his different political opinions.

Mamuka Areshidze: “I think Leri Khabelov is the best person ever. I do not think he is persecuted on ethnic grounds; he simply supported Badri Patarkatsishvili who was not only the leader of the opposition in Georgia but the president of the National Olympic Committee; Khabelov was his deputy. On this basis, Khabelov had problems with Saakashvili’s government and it ended with his departure from Georgia. He loves Georgia and Georgian people but because of the current authority he cannot return to Georgia. He will not come back until the government changes. Gocha Dzasokhov had similar problems: he also supported Patarkatsishvili. Besides that, he was businessman and shared the fate of other Georgian businessmen who were in the opposition of the government. I repeat once more, Georgia does not have many similar courageous men like Leri Khabelov.
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