A court in Georgia’s occupied Akhalgori district, currently under the control of Russia and de facto government of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) of Georgia dropped all charges against a journalist and civil activist Tamara Mearakishvili, and after two years she is allowed to leave the region.
All charges dropped against activist Mearakishvili in occupied Tskhinvali
By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, July 12
Tamara Mearakishvili lives in the Akhalgori district of occupied Tskhinvali region, which is largely settled by ethnic Georgians. According to her, she was charged by the de facto Prosecutor’s Office of Tskhinvali for her civic activities in the region, and they made it impossible for her to leave the area starting from August 2017.
There were two criminal cases started against her: The Akhalgori Prosecutor’s Office officially accused Tamara Mearakishvili of slander in 2017, after she criticised the ruling United Ossetia party in an article for RFE/RL – Echo of the Caucasus.
In the second case, Mearakishvili was accused of producing false documents and illegally obtaining the citizenship of so-called South Ossetia. Local police claimed that during the search two passports were confiscated from Mearakishvili – South Ossetian and Georgian. According to the legislation of self-proclaimed South Ossetia, dual citizenship with Georgia is prohibited.
On July 10, the Tskhinvali District Court finally dismissed both charges. For two years, the civil activist was not able to leave South Ossetia, because the police had confiscated all her documents.
Mearakishvili herself assesses this fact as the first big victory that came after two years of fear, constant danger and anger, yet she believes, that the prosecutor’s office will appeal the court’s decision. Her acquittal, according to civil activist, is due to the fair and honest decision of Judge Tamara Parastaeva.
During the past two years, she has been illegally detained several times and interrogated. She has gone through several searches of her apartment as they were looking for “extremist literature” and confiscated all her identification documents and belongings afterwards.
During these two years, as Mearakishvili said, only her friends and locals in Akhalgori have supported her. Funds for court proceedings were earned through Facebook campaigns, in addition to trips from Akhalgori to Tskhinvali and the cost of a lawyer, all of which cost her several thousand dollars.
Mearakishvili hopes that her story will help other people to speak out loudly about their problems.
In May 2018 Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria nominated Mearakishvili for the United Nations Human Rights Prize and Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for her “outstanding contribution to defending the rights of the conflict-affected population.” Lomjaria wrote that activist and blogger Mearakishvili has been reporting on the critical human rights situation in the occupied town of Akhalgori and the violation of the rights of local people by the de facto authorities, “at the risk of putting her own life, health and safety in danger.”
The Embassy of Netherlands to Georgia awarded Mearakishvili with the Human Rights Tulip award and a monetary prize back in December 2018.