Georgia seeks clarification about Baku Airport incident

Zurab japaridze and Irma Nadirahsviili arrived in Tbilisi International Airport las night., 20 Jun 2014 - 16:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

UPDATED: Georgia’s Foreign Ministry has sent a note to Azerbaijan asking for all details about yesterday’s incident at Baku Airport where two Georgian Parliament Members were stopped and heavily questioned by customs officers.

The Ministry asked its Embassy in Baku to find out the exact reason behind the incident, which involved United National Movement (UNM) leaders.

In parallel to this, the Ministry summoned Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Georgia to learn what he knew about the issue. The meeting between  Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister and the Azerbaijani diplomat lasted for 40 minutes earlier this morning. The Ambassador left the Ministry without saying anything to journalists. 

"The fact is that something happened. There was some problem at the Airport,” Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said today.

"Our Embassy got involved after the media showed high interest in the issue. When it comes to a Georgian citizen and especially a Parliament Member, Georgia’s consulate is obliged to explore details."

Panjikidze said Georgian Consul and Vice Consul went to Baku Airport last night to try and find out details surrounding the reported detention of UNM leaders Irma Nadirashvili and Zurab Japaridze for allegedly attempting to smuggle a large amount of money into Georgia.

Yesterday, Azerbaijan’s Border Department confirmed the detention of two Georgian citizens but said they were not detained by border guards but by custom officers.

Georgia’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan also confirmed that two Georgians had been stopped at the airport for four hours.

Meanwhile, Nadirashvili and Japaridze denied being detained for hours. They said custom officers had only searched them for half an hour and let them go after they could not find anything suspicious.

"As a result we were late for our flight so we left the airport and had a cup of coffee in a café while waiting for the next flight,” Japaridze said.

Georgia's Vice Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze said Japaridze and Nadirashvili were released only after they returned the money.

"They went back to the city, returned the money to those who gave it to them and then they left for Georgia on the next flight," Kaladze said.

"There are too many suspicious questions. The source of the money is interesting. If there was nothing suspicious, as they say, then why did the Azerbaijani customs officers stop them for four hours, especially when they had diplomatic passports," he added.

Georgian authorities said comments by all sides contradicted each other, so were now waiting for official information that they had requested from Azerbaijan.