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23 May, 2009 05:41

Family of mutiny suspects illegally arrested in Georgia – activists

Human rights activists and opposition leaders are blaming Georgian authorities for being heavy handed when questioning relatives of a man suspected of masterminding a mutiny.

Two former military officers have been arrested for their alleged part in an attempt to disrupt NATO war games in the country. The questioning has only added fuel to the already burning discontent in Georgia.

Relatives of one of the men arrested for allegedly masterminding the mutiny have found themselves under the official spotlight. The man himself, Koba Otanadze, is in the hospital, having been wounded during the arrest.

With an alleged suspect in the hospital, it is understandable that the police would want to talk to his relatives.

“They hit me on the head with the butt of the gun, twisted my arms and barged into the room,” said Dzhimsher Otanadze, brother of the suspect.

“They took our cell phones, our phone books, took my money, too – about 500 US dollars – the earnings of my little shop. They dragged us out and drove us to the special operations building of the Georgian Interior Ministry."

Is that legal?

So the question arises whether holding them in custody in such a manner is acceptable.

“The ombudsman has frequently said that the arrest of the Otanadze family members is a violation of human rights,” military expert Irakly Sesiashvili told RT.

“A criminal investigation should have been launched. But our society knows that even if the case was to be opened, these people would still get away scot-free."

Georgia’s Interior Ministry insists all its actions are matters of legal procedure. The statement on its website reads:

“Some of the family members of Koba Otanadze were detained as suspects and interrogated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia."

The opposition, meanwhile, hotly protests the state’s behavior.

Former parliament speaker turned opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze actually called on all foreign diplomats stationed in Tbilisi to react and condemn the actions taken by the authorities, which she says are illegal. So the protests and the discord continue.

This incident could potentially be just one of many that have reached the media. But despite the fact that the public probably will never know all the facts in this situation, it just adds to the picture of overall political instability in Georgia.