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Georgian sailors remain in detention

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, August 25
13 Georgian sailors remain in detention on smuggling charges in the Philippines, after their ship sailing under the flag of Panama was detained in the port of Batangas, south of the capital city of Manila on August 21. According to officials in the Philippines the ship was carrying Israeli made rifles. Local law enforcement officials claim the weapons were intended for the “pro-islamist” Philippine rebels. Georgian media reported that the detained citizens of Georgia deny any links with the smuggling, saying that they did not know what the ship was carrying.

The detainees requested help from the Georgian government a day after their arrest, claiming that they were placed “under strict control” and in “bad living conditions”. According to Gocha Diasamidze, a friend of detained father and son Tamaz and Albert Malakmadze, they sent an sms to him, saying that they are not permitted to talk on the phone and complained about the bad conditions they were subject to in the Philippines.

According to relatives of the Georgian sailors, the detainees said they have not been supplied with food and water. On Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vashadze stated the sailors detained in the Philippines are not placed in prison. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov, 13 Georgian citizens now live in emigration camps in Manila. “All of the sailors feel good. They have mobile phones and can freely contact their relatives,” the Deputy Minister told journalists. Nalbandov said the company La Plata, which owns the detained ship, provided the sailors with an advocate. “The company is doing everything to help the sailors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying everything possible to return the Georgian sailors to their homeland,” the Deputy Minister stated.

Georgian media reported the sailors are being questioned before the Court hearing which will be held in Manila. . Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Georgia Teimuraz Chichinadze told The Messenger that they are already taking diplomatic steps as requested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. He said members of the Georgian sailors’ families have not applied to the Consul.

“However, the Foreign Ministry applied to us with a request to intervene in the case. We started diplomatic activities in this direction,” the Honorary Consul said. Chichinadze stated Georgia has no diplomatic presence in the Philippines and that the Philippine Embassy in Turkey was covering Georgia as well. “The Embassy in Ankara is already taking action,” he noted. “However, generally diplomatic mechanisms take some time and we will have more details in a couple of days. The detained Georgians already have an advocate,” he added. The consul said that according to the law, the captain is responsible for the cargo carried by the ship. The sailors will be charged, if it is proven that they were also involved in the criminal act, Chichinadze said.