Zaza Gakheladze Released from Tskhinvali Custody

Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze, who was jailed for slightly over a year in the custody of Kremlin-backed Tskhinvali, has been released, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on July 14.

The development comes as the Moscow-backed Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia leader Anatoly Bibilov issued an “order” today pardoning the Georgian citizen, effective immediately.

Kremlin-backed “foreign ministry” in Tskhinvali said Bibilov pardoned Gakheladze after the relevent appeal from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill was himself appealed over Gakheladze’s release by Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II in June.

Tskhinvali “foreign ministry” also added that Gakheladze was pardoned in exchange for South Ossetian resident V. Gobozov, who was imprisoned in Tbilisi-controlled territory. Reportedly, Gobozov was handed over to the Kremlin-backed authorities yesterday.

Gakheladze was shot and wounded, then detained by the Kremlin-backed forces in July 2020. Accused of crossing the dividing line “illegally” and assaulting a “law enforcement officer” as well, he was illegally sentenced to twelve years and six months by Tskhinvali judges, a decision widely condemned by Tbilisi and the international community.

The Georgian citizen’s family and relatives had slammed the Georgian Government over “inaction” in response to Gakheladze’s nearly year-long detention, and also held a march in June demanding his release. Tbilisi officials, including Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, had said negotiations were ongoing but refrained from providing details not to foil the talks.

Following the 101st Ergneti IPRM meeting yesterday, Irakli Antadze of the State Security Service of Georgia said “certain possibilities” had been identified for Gakheladze’s release.

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