Natalia Sarkisashvili, Information Center of Kakheti
The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Center demands the freedom of Akhmed Chataev, detained as a result of a special operation in Lopota Gorge. According to human rights organizations, the ethnic Chechen, who has received refugee status in Austria, has been arbitrarily detained in Georgia.
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs began a so-called anti-terrorist operation in Lopota Gorge near Lapankuri village [Kakheti region, east Georgia] on August 28. According to the MIA, the special operation followed the kidnapping of 5 people in Lapankuri forest; the young villagers went missing on August 26. The MIA alleged that a group of armed people had taken the young men hostage. According to information released by the MIA on August 29, two MIA officers and a military doctor were killed in the special operation; 5 Georgian riot police officers were wounded. On August 29, the deputy minister of internal affairs Shota Khizanishvili said at a briefing in Telavi that 11 militants were killed; seven of them were identified. Two of them – Aslan Margoshvili, 22, and Bahaudin Aldamov, 26 – were citizens of Georgia; the other five militants killed were identified as citizens of Russia. Aslan Margoshvili, Bahaudin Aldamov and Bahaudin Bagakashvili were buried in the cemetery of Duisi village, Pankisi Gorge.
On September 6, Information Center of Kakheti released information stating that Doku Umarov’s personal representative in Europe, Akhmed Chataev, had disappeared after the special operation in Lopota Gorge. Chataev had lived in Pankisi Gorge for the last two years. Mamuka Areshidze, an expert in Caucasian issues, announced that according to his information, the MIA had arrested “one-handed Akhmeda”.
On September 8, the MIA confirmed in a statement that they had arrested Akhmed Chataev who is a citizen of the Russian Federation from the North Caucasus. “The detainee was wounded. We provided him with the necessary medical assistance and his life is no longer in danger,” the MIA statement reads.
According to ICK, Akhmed Chataev handed himself over to Georgian law enforcement officers on September 8. 32-year-old Chataev recalled the details of the incident, saying that on August 28 the head of the Kakheti regional office of the anti-terrorist department of the MIA Sandro Amiridze and another man cooperating with this department, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, asked him to come to the gorge. He came there from Tbilisi.
“Sandro Amiridze and Zelimkhan Khangoshvili called me on August 28 and told me I had to immediately travel to Lopota Gorge and take part in negotiations. I knew that a group of Chechens and Kists intended to travel to Chechnya via Dagestan and they [Georgian MIA officials] were assisting the group. Amiridze and Khangoshvili told me on phone that the situation had changed; our brothers were under siege. I quickly came to Lopota. Amiridze said that the men had to put down their guns and surrender. I went to the gorge to negotiate with the Chechens and Kists. There were 17 people there. I personally knew most of them. When I told them the message of the MIA officials, the men said that if the MIA would not allow them to cross the border, they would return back, but they would not give up their guns as the police were armed too. I told their message to Amiridze and Khangoshvili on the phone. They gave me several minutes to consider our final answer. I was sitting on a hill for 10-15 minutes when suddenly a sniper shot me in the left leg. I did not have gun with me. I rolled down the hill; I wanted to hide. I had a cell phone and some chocolate with me. I broke the telephone and threw it away to prevent them from finding me by detecting its location. Afterwards, I heard gunshots which lasted for about 2 hours. I was hiding for 10 days; I could not walk; the wound was getting worse and worse; finally I approached a customs checkpoint. The border guards immediately recognized me and paid attention to me. They treated my wound as they could; it was hot season at that time and the wound was seriously infected. They were surprised how I had survived without food and water for 10 days. Then they called senior officials; they came, put me in a vehicle and took me to Tbilisi. From there I was taken to Gori hospital where doctors amputated my leg. That happened on September 8; I spent ten days in hospital,” Akhmed Chataev said.
According to information from the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid, Akhmed Chataev was placed in a penitentiary establishment on September 18. Tbilisi City Court sentenced him to pre-trial detention. The prosecutor’s office accuses Chataev of illegal possession of explosives. A pre-trial hearing of his case is scheduled for October 29.