Tbilisi has called on the Abkhaz side “to immediately and unconditionally” release three Georgian students arrested by the secessionist authorities on March 1.
“Otherwise, [we] will undertake very serious measures to protect our citizens,” Dimitri Kitoshvili, the Georgian president’s spokesman, said on May 2.
The Abkhaz militia arrested the three students on March 1 when they tried to infiltrate the breakaway region to campaign against the Abkhaz March 4 parliamentary elections. The three activists were accused of illegal entry.
President Saakashvili met with the parents of the three students and pledged that the authorities would spare no efforts to have the activists freed from Abkhaz custody.
The president’s spokesman said that the students’ arrest was “a criminal act.”
“They are hostages and not prisoners… We have undertaken all the necessary steps to achieve their release through negotiations. However, the de facto Abkhaz authorities are delaying this decision,” Kitoshvili said.
The Abkhaz authorities have not yet set a trial date.
The arrest of the three activists has recently become the cause of heated political controversy between the ruling National Movement Party and the opposition Republican Party.
Paata Zakareishvili, a political analyst on Abkhaz issues, and affiliated with the Republican Party, accused the Georgian authorities of inciting a group of students to undertake unreasonable activities in the Georgian-populated Gali district of Abkhazia ahead of the elections in the breakaway region.
He alleged that the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security (DCS) was orchestrating a group of Georgian students' anti-election campaign in the Gali district.
Lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party immediately accused Zakareishvili and the Republican Party of an “anti-state approach.”