An unrecognised court in Georgia's Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) has sentenced a Georgian citizen to 20 years in prison for alleged crimes that Tbilisi says "are absurd”.
39-year-old Giorgi Giunashvili was illegally arrested by Russian occupation forces for so-called "illegal crossing of the state border” – the administrative boundary line between Tskhinvali region and the rest of Georgia on June 8, 2016.
Giunashvili was held at a pretrial detention center before the handing down of the verdict.
Giunashvili’s family has asked for help from the Georgian government, the United States’ ambassador to Georgia, the European Union Monitoring mission in Georgia and other international organisations. They believe the allegations against him are trumped up.
De facto leaders of breakaway Tskhinvali region claim Giunashvili was involved in "terrorist activities” and was a member of an illegal armed group. They also claim Giunashvili exploded a hand-grenade in 2007 and opened fire on South Ossetian soldiers in 2008.
The Government of Georgia has on multiple occasions called on the Russian and de-facto authorities of Tskhinvali to release Giunashvili.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili urged the international community over the summer to remain aware of the case and of other ongoing human rights violations of Georgian citizens along the occupation line.