Georgian monk released in Abkhazia

Mon 13 February 2012 08:57 GMT | 08:57 Local Time

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The Georgian Interior Ministry says it has helped secure the release of of a Georgian priest-monk in Abkhazia.

The ministry said in a brief statement on 11 February, without providing further details, that a Georgian priest-monk had been released “after 25 days of captivity on the occupied territory of Abkhazia as a result of efforts” undertaken by the ministry.
 
Last month Georgian media reported that Priest-Monk Iona, secular name Mamuka Maisuradze, had been “abducted” while trying to visit holy sites in breakaway Abkhazia. His relatives said that kidnappers wanted a ransom of $100,000.

The authorities in breakaway Abkhazia said at the time that Abkhaz law-enforcement agencies had not arrested the Georgian priest-monk and that they knew nothing about his reported abduction or whereabouts.

The foreign Minister of breakaway Abkhazia, Vyacheslav Chirikba, told RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, Ekho Kavkaza, in late January that Mamuka Maisuradze was a controversial person, who had been expelled from Russia in 2009 after being accused of spying for Georgia.

Maisuradze joined the Georgian Orthodox Church two years ago and a Georgian Interior Ministry official confirmed to Civil.ge that Priest-Monk Iona was the same person accused by Russia in 2009 of espionage.

On 11 February Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili received Priest-Monk Iona in his residence in Tbilisi. He said that "not only was no ransom paid” for his release, but those people who kept him captive in Abkhazia had “got what they deserved”. “I cannot speak about the details now,” Saakashvili said.

“It was not the first case of abduction and while this illegality persists there [in Abkhazia] with the help of our enemy, unfortunately it might not be the last one. But what's most important is that you are now here with us,” Saakashvili said.

“I think they [referring to alleged kidnappers] now understand that infringing the security of our citizens will always receive a response from us. We might not be a large and wealthy state, but we will always protect our citizens with all means available,” Saakashvili said.

The priest-monk thanked President Saakashvili and the Georgian law-enforcement agencies for securing his release through, as he put it, a “bloodless operation”. He also said that he had been kept in captivity by a “gang of criminals” in “humiliating” conditions.

Civil Georgia

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