Illegally detained Zaza Gakheladze says release from occupied Tskhinvali prison was unexpected

  • The Georgian government has been demanding the release of Zaza Gakheladze for a year on the international level within the framework of various negotiating platforms. Photo: Shot from live video, 14 Jul 2021 - 20:28, Tbilisi,Georgia

Zaza Gakheladze, an illegally detained Georgian citizen who was ‘pardoned’ by the de facto president of the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), says he did not expect to be released today.

I really did not expect [be released] today. Thanks to God, our Patriarch [Ilia II] and our government I feel well”, Gakheladze told journalists after crossing the occupation line to the Tbilisi-administered village of Ergneti. 

Gakheladze, who was shot and illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces in the summer of 2020, was later sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison by the de facto Supreme Court of the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region. 

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II appealed to the Russian Patriarch Kirill earlier in June to mediate for Gakheladze’s release with the de fato Tskhinvali leadership.

Local Tskhinvali media reports that Gakheladze was pardoned following Kirill's mediation with de facto president Anatoly Bibilov in exchange of “a South Ossetian citizen” V. Gobozov.

Reactions in Tbilisi

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who went to Ergneti to welcome Gakheladze, said he is ‘a heroic man’.

Georgian officials have also welcomed the Georgian citizen’s release.

Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani:

Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava:

Chair of parliamentary foreign relations committee Nikoloz Samkharadze:

Ruling Georgian Dream party:

The European Union Monitoring mission has also tweeted:

The unconditional release of Georgian citizens illegally detained by occupation forces was in the focus of the 101st meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) held yesterday in Ergneti.