The Akhalgori (Leningor) District court has found South Ossetian journalist Tamara Mearakishvili not guilty of charges of slander and falsely obtaining citizenship on the basis of forged documentation.
Mearakishvili announced her victory on Facebook and said that she had been cleared of all charges.
Mearakishvili’s lawyer, Ikramzhan Ramatov, told RFE/RL’s Ekho Kavkaza that ‘justice triumphed’ after ‘two years of physical and psychological breakdowns and hard work’.
The court also lifted her travel ban, as she previously been restricted from leaving South Ossetia.
The prosecution has 10 days to appeal the verdict.
The ruling United Ossetia party filed a complaint against Mearakishvili for slander in August 2017, after which the prosecutor’s office launched a criminal investigation.
The complaint, according to Mearakishvili, relates to an article she had been interviewed for in Ekho Kavkaza, RFE/RL’s Russian-language service covering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In it, Mearakishvili was quoted speaking of corruption in South Ossetia, and detailed the appointment of members and supporters of United Ossetia to official institutions following Anatoly Bibilov’s election victory in April.
Investigators reportedly urged her to stop cooperating with Ekho Kavkaza.
In March 2018, she was accused by the local authorities of illegally acquiring a South Ossetian passport on the basis of forged documents. Mearakishvili said that since that time, she had been under ‘unofficial house arrest’.
Mearakishvili, a veteran journalist who has been recognised for her work in peace reporting by the European Union Monitoring Mission and who frequently participated in conferences about conflict and peacebuilding initiatives in Tbilisi and elsewhere has long faced difficulties with the authorities in South Ossetia.
In June 2017, she was allegedly abducted for one day by South Ossetia’s security service.
On 16 July 2017, Mearakishvili was arrested by the authorities in South Ossetia and released without charge shortly thereafter.
[Read more about Mearakishvili’s case on OC Media: South Ossetian court: prosecutors committed ‘procedural violations’ against journalist Mearakishvili]
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.