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Months-Long Captivity in Tskhinvali Prison

May 1, 2014
Lado Bichashvili, Shida Kartli

Three citizens of Georgia are waiting for the court judgment in the Tskhinvali pretrial detention setting. Eight citizens were already sentenced to imprisonment for illegal crossing of so-called border. Whereabouts of former Georgian soldier Shitikov are still unknown.

According to the information of the Georgian side, Russian soldiers kidnapped Shitikov from Karapila village of Kaspi district and took him to the Tskhinvali detention setting. Ossetian side neither denies nor confirms information about his detention. 

Detention of former military officer contains some threats. Film-crew of the TV 3 spoke about these threats in Adzvi village on April 16. Cameraman Vakho Lekiashvili and technician of the TV-Company Mikheil Mikhoev spoke about time spent in the Tskhinvali prison and said during interrogation South Ossetian de-facto law enforcement officers permanently inquired whether they had served in national army and participated in the 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

Instead, de-facto government of South Ossetia more categorically demands release of three prisoners Roman Shutikov, Besik Gelashvili and Giorgi Kharazishvili in exchange of Georgian prisoners in Tskhinvali; the three persons were charged for terrorist act in Gori.

There are eight citizens of Georgia in Tskhinvali prison. Tskhinvali court judged them for illegal crossing of the so-called border and sent to prison. Among detainees is Vasil Kobakhidze from Dvani village, Kareli district. Russian soldiers arrested Kobakhidze in the occupied territory in 2012 and assigned him to Tskhinvali law enforcement bodies. Kobakhidze was sentenced to three-year imprisonment. Tskhinvali authority sent message to his family members to refrain from making comments with Georgian media about the issue. So, the family does not want to speak about situation in Tskhinvali prison. 

Genadi Mamagulashvili, Dvani resident: “They arrested him and imprisoned for three years. More than one year has passed. They did not request money for Kobakhidze’s release. However, some detainees were released through negotiations and fine payment.”

Representatives of the TV3 spoke about situation in Tskhinvali prison, who were released from imprisonment within 24 hours after Georgian government and international organizations interfered in the situation. 

Bela Zakaidze, journalist at TV 3: “There is unbearable situation in Tskhinvali pretrial detention setting. Besides official interrogations, they used to take me out of the cell for unofficial conversations too. After one of similar conversations I lost even hope they would ever release me. Nobody abused me physically but I was under serious psychological oppression. There are inhuman conditions in Tskhinvali prison, where we spent night. It was very cold and they did not even give us food.”

Georgian citizens are still in Tskhinvali prison; de-facto government did not wish to release them even in exchange of fine. Most detainees live in the borderline villages.

Georgian Public Defender’s Office supports comprise policy in conflict regions. Public Defender’s Advisor in Conflict –Affected Regions Medea Turashvili told that Public Defender has already recommended the Georgian MIA and State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality to exchange prisoners. Ombudsman believes similar settlement of the issue will promote prevention of incidents and rebuilding of trust between Georgian and Ossetian peoples.