The family of Zaza Gakheladze, a Georgian citizen illegally detained and sentenced by the Russia-occupied Tskhinvali region, has given the Georgian government one month to ensure his release. Yesterday, on the detainee’s 34th birthday, Gakheladze’s family held a peaceful protest in the village of Kvemo Chala, near the occupation line.
Family and supporters of illegally detained Zaza Gakheladze hold a rally
By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, June 24
Rally participants marched from Kvemo Chala to Samtavisi Monastery. The family of the unlawfully detained stated that the rally intended to attract further attention to this issue and to push the government to actively work to release Gakheladze.
Gakheladze’s family initially stated that if the government failed to free Gakheladze by his birthday, they would cross the line into the occupied territory; however, his father, Mikheil Gakheladze, announced later that they would refrain from entering the occupied territory per the request of Georgian Patriarch Ilia II.
According to Gakheladze’s father, he is giving the government one month to release his son, or else, he says he will enter Tskhinvali.
Georgian opposition members and civic activists also joined the rally, accusing the government of inactivity.
Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, as well as Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze, stated yesterday that the government has done its utmost to ensure the release of Gakhelaze as soon as possible. According to Gomelauri, the international community, as well as the Church, are involved in the process.
Gakheladze was shot and illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces in July
2020. On February 5, 2021, he was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison by the de facto Supreme Court of the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region. The court found him guilty of
“illegally crossing the border and attempted murder” of a so-called border guard.
On June 22, the de facto government of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region responded to the launching of the protest and stated that the rally participants were likely to stage provocations. According to them, if anyone tried to cross into Tskhinvali, the de facto authorities would respond in line with the law.