Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Georgia snappers held on spy charge

European Pressphoto Agency photographer Zurab Kurtsikidze is among those detained in Georgia

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's personal photographer has been arrested on suspicion of spying, with his wife and two other photographers.

The Interior Ministry said in a terse statement that the detainees were Irakli Gedenidze, the photographer for Saakashvili; Zurab Kurtsikidze of the European Pressphoto Agency and foreign ministry photographer Georgy Abdaladze. Gedenidze's wife also was arrested.

Associated Press photographer Skakh Aivazov was also detained but released after several hours without being charged.

The statement said they were accused of providing information to a special service of an unspecified foreign country to the detriment of Georgia's interests. It gave no further details.

Abdaladze's lawyer, Ramaz Chinchaladze, said he and other suspects had insisted on their innocence.

Several people have been convicted recently by Georgian courts on charges of spying for Russia.

In the most recent such ruling, a court in the Black Sea port of Batumi convicted a Russian citizen and eight Georgians of espionage and gave them prison sentences ranging from 11 to 14 years.

Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said on Wednesday that his agency captured most of the Russian spies operating in Georgia, but is still tracking a few who are left.

The spy rows have aggravated already tense relations between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a brief but bitter war in 2008. Russia has dismissed the spy arrests in Georgia as a fabrication.

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