Civic Activist on ‘Pressure, Persecution’ from Tskhinvali Authorities

Tamar Mearakishvili, an Akhalgori-based civil rights activist, who was charged with criminal defamation by the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities last August, said yesterday that additional charges were brought against her last week.

In a new criminal case, the Tskhinvali authorities are accusing her of “fabricating official documents,” according to Mearakishvili. They claim the civic activist obtained “the South Ossetian citizenship” without rejecting her Georgian citizenship. 

“The case has be opened illegally and their sole objective is to persecute and pressure me to leave the region,” Mearakishvili told the Tbilisi-based TV Pirveli on Monday, adding that the defamation-related charges were also intended to intimidate her, since there had been no follow up developments on the investigation in the past seven months.

Mearakishvili also specified that her documents had been seized by the local authorities last August, depriving her of the right to cross to the Tbilisi-administered territory. Mearakishvili said she could only travel within the Tskhinvali Region, but added that she exercised this right only “for the needs related to the criminal case (implying travel to the town of Tskhinvali),” citing possible “provocations.”

Mearakishvili also said that Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria was informed about the new charges, and that she was following the developments closely.

Tamar Mearakishvili, a civic activist in the small town of Akhalgori in Georgia’s Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, was briefly detained on August 16, 2017, and charged for defaming the region’s ruling United Ossetia party. Mearakishvili was released the same day, but the investigation is still pending.

Detention of Mearakishvili was condemned as “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “restriction on freedom of expression” by officials in Tbilisi, with representatives of the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities accusing Tbilisi of “interference into the republic’s internal affairs.”

The Amnesty International, a London-based international human rights organization, said in its report on August 21, 2017, that the defamation charge against Tamar Merakishvili by “the de facto authorities in Georgia’s disputed region of South Ossetia” was “a move that constitutes a blatant violation of freedom of expression.”


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