Georgian Interior Ministry claims that the arrested on July 7 photographers collaborated with Russia’s Defense Ministry.
Four photojournalists, including Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s personal photographer and his wife, were detained on spying charges early on Thursday. They are accused of providing sensitive information to an “organization operating under the patronage of a foreign state’s intelligence service.” Three of the arrested Georgian photographers, Georgy Abdaladze, Zurab Kurtsikidze and Irakli Gedenidze, earlier on Saturday were accused of espionage.
“The investigation found that Zurab Kurtsikidze was associated with members of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate,” the Georgian ministry’s statement reads.
The ministry said Kurtsikidze passed secret information to Russia with a help of Gedenidze Abdaladze.
“In particular, for a reward Irakli Gedenidze and George Abdaladze while performing their official duties, were able to take photos that contain sensitive information, and send them to Kurtsikidze,” the ministry said adding that during a search of personal belongings of Gedenidze and Abdaladze, and materials in their computers, the investigators found photographs of schemes of the Georgian president’s administrative building, information about routes of movement, and information about details of his visits, and other information that contains sensitive data.
The investigation into the case is continuing.
Irakli Gedenidze’s spouse Natiya, who was also arrested, is now freed. She does not comment on the matter.
Photographers’ lawyers say the detained do not admit their guilt.
Abdaladze’s defender Mikhail Gogadze earlier said that photographer continues a hunger strike, and feels worse comparing to yesterday.
Our Georgia opposition leader and Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said on Friday that it is alarming when photo correspondents and journalists are detained in a country where freedom of the press is seriously limited.
Thursday’s detention of four prominent Georgian photojournalists is not related to their professional activities, a spokeswoman for the Georgian president, Manana Mandzhgaladze said earlier on Friday.
I shouldn’t speak in detail about this extremely sensitive matter, but there is one point I’d like to clarify: this case concerns a serious information leak. It has nothing to do with journalism or media activities,” Mandzhgaladze said.
Mandzhgaladze said the detainees were not known for widely expressing their political views and therefore it was not correct to link their detention to a crackdown on media freedoms or political persecution.