Georgia Photojournalists Arrested With Spying For Russia

Georgian journalists have staged a series of protests over the arrest of four photographers.

The court sent Irakli Kurtsikidze, Giorgi Abdaladze, and Irakli Gedenidze, a personal photographer of President Mikheil Saakashvilii, to pretrial detention.

Mr. Gedenidze’s wife – Natia – was also arrested but released without charge.

Officials say they passed confidential information to Russian intelligence.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said Mr Gedenidze and foreign ministry photographer Giorgi Abdaladze had taken photos of documents concerning President Saakashvili’s movements, and sold them to a third photographer, Zurab Kurtsikidze, to pass on to Russian military intelligence.

The spokesman, Georgy Bukhrashvili, said Mr Kurtsikidze, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency, had links to two agents in Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders warned on Friday that the “current fear of spies in Georgia must not be allowed to fuel a climate of intimidation in the media”.

“I believe nobody has any doubts that we are the first target for a giant country run by former KBG agents,”  said President Saakashvilin an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. “This is not about paranoia but it’s about the rule of law and equality of everyone.”

Mr Saakashvili has been criticised in recent years for the heavy-handed tactics of his security forces in suppressing street protests against his rule.

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