President Saakashvili visited journalist Malkhaz Basilaia, who along with another Georgian citizen, was released by the Abkhaz side on March 5, in his house in Zugdidi and praised both men for “behaving very admirably” while in custody in Sokhumi.
The Abkhaz side released Basilaia and Davit Tsotsoria, who had been detained since February 26 on charges of “illegally crossing the Abkhaz border” on March 6.
“They – those bandits [in Abkhazia] – wanted them [the two Georgians] to apologise in writing and say they would not do the same in future. They wanted them to admit that they were guilty of something by crossing the border and by doing so they [the Abkhaz side] wanted to portray the border as if it were a state border [between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia]. These guys [the two released people] demonstrated Georgian dignity during the talks with a so-called [Abkhaz] investigator,” President Saakashvili said at the meeting
Basilaia, the chief of the Tbilisi-based Mze TV’s Zugdidi bureau, told Saakashvili in response: “Thank you very much and I want to tell you that the Abkhazians are really afraid of you. As soon as you made a public statement, they [the Abkhazians] were coming to us and saying: “Your president made a statement just now.” When we were leaving the prison cell, we wrote on the door: We will be back [to Abkhazia] soon and Misha is Cool [the name of the song used by Saakashvili during his election campaign.]”
Saakashvili warned on February 27 that Georgian police would intervene if the Abkhaz side refused to immediately release the detained Georgian journalist. Abkhaz officials said later that if it were not for President Saakashvili’s ultimatum, the two Georgians would have been released much earlier.
President Saakashvili also said on March 6 that he would not tolerate any further detentions of Georgian citizens by the Abkhaz side.
“First they detained our students, and they have gone unpunished for that. Then, they detained our guys [referring to Basilaia and Tsotsoria]; there will be no third case of this kind and I want them to know that. We will not let anyone do this in Georgia. They are self-declared authorities, they have no legal ground to act like this and they will be held responsible for the illegal detention of our guys. They committed a crime and a person should be held responsible for committing a crime. I promise that they will be held responsible for this crime,” Saakashvili said.