Anatoly Bibilov, the Moscow-backed leader of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia said the recent ruling of Akhalgori district ‘court’ to sentence Tbilisi-based doctor, Vazha Gaprindashvili to one year and nine months in prison for “illegally crossing the border” was not absolutely “severe or tough.”
“A person, who violates the law, should be held accountable, especially if a person intentionally does so, then this should not go unpunished,” Bibilov said, adding that “Gaprindashvili indeed (and he agrees with that) deliberately violated the state border of the Republic of South Ossetia.” He then noted that Gaprindashvili’s detention has been politicized [in Tbilisi].
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Russia-backed ‘foreign ministry’ of Tskhinvali region also released a statement on Gaprindashvili’s sentencing on December 23. Calling the demands from Tbilisi and the West to “immediately release” Gaprindashvili “hysteria,” it said that in any law-abiding state, illegal border crossing is punishable and “the Republic of South Ossetia – is not an exception.”
“Foreign ministry” also noted that in most cases, “violators of the regime of the State border of South Ossetia with Georgia,” are handed over to representatives of Georgian law enforcement agencies after applying administrative measures.
“As for Gaprindashvili, his actions contain signs of crime, for which he is being punished under the current legislation of the Republic of South Ossetia, and his professional activities have nothing to do with that,” the “foreign ministry” said, adding that Gaprindashvili is “an ordinary offender, a hostage of the internal political struggle of various forces, an ordinary provocateur, and not a hero.”
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According to Moscow-backed region’s ‘foreign ministry,’ Gaprindashvili’s case is “a new type of provocation.” It then noted that “South Ossetian authorities have reliable information that the Georgian special services are engaged in searching and inciting of the so-called ideological volunteers of humanitarian professions for such crimes in return for a decent reward.”
Therefore, it said “it is regrettable” that a Tbilisi-based doctor, “clearly imagining the consequences of this project, deliberately went to this provocation, satisfying the political needs of a certain party to increase pressure on internal opponents.”
Our gratitude & appreciation to the international community for their support and reaction to the illegal sentencing of Doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili. We will be persistent in our efforts. This is unacceptable and points to the deep humanitarian crisis on the ground #Gaprindashvili
— David Zalkaliani (@DZalkaliani) December 24, 2019
Meanwhile, yesterday the Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani expressed his gratitude to the international community “for their support and reaction to the illegal sentencing” of doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili. “We will be persistent in our efforts. This is unacceptable and points to the deep humanitarian crisis on the ground,” he tweeted.
Earlier this week, FM Zalkaliani held phone talks with the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović about Gaprindashvili’s case.
On December 20, “court’ in occupied Akhalgori sent him to one year and nine months in prison for “illegally crossing the border.” The ruling has been widely denounced by Georgian and foreign officials, calling on Tskhinvali to “immediately release” the doctor.
Gaprindashvili’s wife, Tamila Lapanashvili said at a peaceful protest rally ahead of the Akhalgori ‘court’ ruling that the fact that the doctor remains in custody “in his homeland because of his human mission,” is “devastating” for his family and friends.
According to Lapanashvili, on November 9 Gaprindashvili said he had to visit a patient in Kaspi (a municipality near the occupation line) and return soon. However, he later phoned his wife that he was detained by “Russian border guards,” who were allegedly taking him to “Tskhinvali jail.”
For more background follow our tag on Vazha Gaprindashvili.