Officials in Tbilisi condemned the detention of Tamar Mearakishvili, Georgian civil rights activist, in the Akhalgori District of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia as “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “restriction on freedom of expression.”
Tamar Mearakishvili, an Akhalgori-based civil rights activist, who works as a freelance journalist for Netgazeti and RFE/RL, was detained by the local prosecutor’s office in the evening on August 16. She was released earlier on August 17, but was asked to show up at the prosecutor’s office next day. Mearakishvili said she was suspected of disseminating slanderous reports against Tskhinvali authorities. Her daughter told Rustavi 2 TV on August 17 that the local law enforcers searched their house and took away some old documents.
Mearakishvili has been an active supporter of local residents and is known for her criticism of the region’s authorities.
Georgian Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili condemned Mearakishvili’s detention as “illegal deprivation of liberty, pressure on the civil rights activist and restriction on freedom of expression.”
“This detention should also be assessed as a pressure on her to leave Akhalgori permanently. It is alarming that the pressure on civil rights activists and non-governmental organizations is being exerted in a regular manner in the so called South Ossetian region,” the Georgian Public Defender said in a statement released on August 16.
“Ethnic cleansing, oppression of Georgians, banning Georgian language instruction, kidnapping our activists or citizens – all these unveil the true face of the occupation regime,” Anna Dolidze, the president’s parliamentary secretary, said on August 17. “The international community should actively condemn such actions and what is most important, we should ensure that the rights of our citizens are protected.”
Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation Ketevan Tsikhelashvili also commented on Mearakishvili’s detention.
“It is very important that Tamar Mearakishvili, her family and generally all those families, who live beyond barbed wires, including in Akhalgori District, have a possibility to continue safe life and have a space for civic activism, because it is their right,” she said on August 17.
A group of seven Georgian civil society organizations also condemned Mearakishvili’s detention and called on the Georgian government to use all available diplomatic and legal means, including the negotiation formats, to ensure security of Tamar Mearakishvili and her family.
In a statement released on August 17, the group also said that although Mearakishvili was released, “there are some risks that criminal persecution against her may acquire an arbitrary and discriminatory nature.”
The group also called on international organizations to use diplomatic and political instruments for exerting pressure on Russia and Tskhinvali authorities.
It is not the first case of exerting pressure on Mearakishvili by Tskhinvali authorities. In July, she was summoned by the prosecutor’s office, as she said, in an attempt to intimidate her.