Irakli Bebua, a young ethnic Georgian man from the Gali district of Russia-occupied Abkhazia, has been detained after setting an Abkhaz flag on fire, while the region was celebrating the day of victory and independence on September 30.
On September 30 a video was shared among the region’s users of Facebook, in which the detained young man apologised to those who were offended by his action.
He explains that he burnt the flag as a sign of protest, as on September 30 the region was celebrating the day of separation between the Abkhaz and Georgian people. He also explains that he respects Abkhazia, the Abkhaz people and also the flag of the Russia-occupied region.
I beg Abkhaz and Georgian people to forgive each other and live in a friendly way, as they did before the separation”, says Irakli Bebua in a video.
Shortly after being released on social media, the video resulted in a negative reaction in the Abkhaz community. A majority of Facebook users made negative comments, some even threatened to kill the young man, saying that the man should not only be imprisoned, but also be murdered.
Responding to the issue, the Georgian State Security Service (SSS) said that Irakli Bebua was detained illegally and that his life is not in danger.
The illegally detained man is in Gali, his health condition is satisfactory and his life is not in danger. The Russian Federation bears full responsibility for the cases of illegal detention of people in the occupied territories of Georgia. This process, led by the occupation regime, significantly worsens the security environment along the occupation line, as well as the daily life of the local population. It is important the illegally detained person to be released unconditionally”, reads an official statement of the SSS.
The Gali district is the only part of Russia-occupied Abkhazia region where the vast majority of the population are ethnic Georgians.
Although they were allowed to return to their homes in the Gali districts after the end of 1992-93 Georgian-Abkhaz war, their life conditions are difficult till now.
In the middle of summer 2020, the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia Jemal Gamakharia noted that residents of Gali in occupied Abkhazia could not receive IDP benefits and pensions for several months.
The reason is that these people used to receive this money in Zugdidi or elsewhere on Georgia-controlled territory but now the checkpoint is closed at the Enguri Bridge by the Sokhumi de-facto government amid the coronavirus.