Tamara Mearakishvili, a journalist and activist in South Ossetia, was detained in the town of Akhalgori (Leningor) at around 17:20 on 16 August while local police searched her house for ‘extremist literature’.
Mearakishvili told RFE/RL’s Ekho Kavkaza that she was not told the reason for her detention and would be provided with details and documents in the Prosecutor’s Office of the town.
Mearakishvili had recently returned from Tbilisi and was detained at her home. According to Ekho Kavkaza, she wanted to leave the things she was carrying with her relatives, but was prevented from doing so.
Mearakishvili was released after several hours of interrogation in the South Ossetian Prosecutor's Office. According to Tbilisi-based media outlet Netgazeti, for whom she contributes, she was questioned again about a complaint from a senior member of the ruling United Ossetia party.
However, she refused to answer questions without her lawyer, and has abstained from discussing the details of her detention.
Mearakishvili’s mother, who also went to the Prosecutor’s Office, was not told the reasons for her daughter’s detention, only that ‘Tamara is a dangerous criminal’.
In the evening, Mearakishvili’s house was searched, according to her relatives, for ‘extremist literature’. But police could not specify what they were searching for exactly, Ekho Kavkaza wrote. A Computer, documents, and her mobile phone were taken, together with the business card of Knut Vollebæk, former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, and a publication by him, according to Netgazeti.
Mearakishvili has been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office on 18 August at 9:30. In a phone call with Tbilisi-based InterPressNews, she said she is planning to hire a lawyer.
Not the first interrogation
The journalist was previously questioned on 31 July after a senior party member filed a complaint for ‘violating the dignity and honour’ of the ruling United Ossetia party, which is headed by South Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov.
According to Ekho Kavkaza, Mearakishvili was informally questioned by the prosecutor’s office six times in the second half of 2016.
[Read more on OC Media: Journalist questioned in South Ossetia for ‘violating dignity’ of ruling party]
On 8 June, she was allegedly abducted by South Ossetia’s security service — the KGB. Early reports said she was dragged into a car by men dressed in civilian clothes; witnesses claim the car belonged to the South Ossetian KGB. The purpose of the alleged abduction is not clear, as she has so far abstained from talking about the incident.
‘Why are they pressing Tamara? Because she raises extremely unpleasant topics for the district authorities, and for Tskhinval too’, Murat Gukemukhov, who writes for Ekho Kavkaza, said on 17 August.
Mearakishvili is a veteran journalist from South Ossetia who has been recognised for her work in peace reporting by the European Union Monitoring Mission.
According to Netgazeti, for whom Mearakishvili contributes, she frequently participates in conferences about conflict and peacebuilding initiatives in Tbilisi and elsewhere.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.