The Georgian Interior Ministry announced on September 21 that police have arrested four residents of Pankisi Gorge on charges of unlawful confinement, extortion, and coercion against the citizens of Tajikistan involved in business activities in Georgia.
The arrest comes a month after the pro-opposition Formula TV channel first aired the story on the kidnapping of Tajik citizens; however, the Ministry of Interior did not confirm the fact of abduction back then.
The Interior Ministry reported today that police seized two firearms, cartridges, gas guns, a knife, three baseball bats, and USD 68,900 following a search in one of the assailants’ car.
The investigation has been launched under articles 143, 181, and 150 of the criminal code of Georgia, involving unlawful confinement, extortion, and coercion envisaging punishment by imprisonment for a term from seven to ten years.
According to recent media reports, one of the detainees is the brother of Vakhtang Pareulidze, a Pankisi-based businessman and one of the leaders of the Salafi community, an ultraconservative branch within Sunni Islam. The three other detainees are allegedly the businessman’s bodyguards.