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Peacekeepers could get 30 years for kidnapping

Two Ossetian peacekeepers have appeared in court in Georgia charged with abduction, robbery and having illegal weapons. The men are accused of kidnapping Geogian tourists and journalists in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia earlier this week.

Tariel Khachirov and Vitaly Valiev, both from the Ossetian battalion of the joint peacekeeping forces, have been remanded in custody in Tbilisi for two months until the start of their trial.

The pair appeared in a court in the Georgian provincial town of Mtskheta, where they heard a litany of charges read out against them.

“They are accused of illegal deprivation of freedom, brigandage and the hampering of the work of journalists. These crimes in total carry a 30-year prison term,” said Malkhaz Shvidbichashvili, Tariel Khachirov’s legal representative. 

Khachirov and Valiev allegedly detained a party of Georgian tourists, including a 13-year-old boy, in a village in the breakaway region on August 26.

On August 27 Georgian journalists investigating the incident were also detained.  They were all released later that day, but the Georgian authorities vowed to find those responsible.

“I can guarantee that you will get the full picture on these incidents in the near future. These people will be punished,” said Vano Merabishvili, a representative of the Georgian Interior Ministry.

The suspects' families, however, say the arrested peacekeepers had nothing to do with the incident.

The peacekeepers have now been transferred to Tbilisi's prison number 5 to await the start of their trial.

The Joint Peacekeeping Force of the Ossetian battalion in the region says the arrests are illegal and the soldiers must be released.