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16 Feb, 2010 06:30

South Ossetian families in the dark over loved ones detained in Georgia

South Ossetians are being arrested by Georgian police, with many serving their sentence for months, even for years, before relatives receive any information about their situation.

With few clear legal rights stated for those detained, outrage towards Georgia's policies is growing both inside and outside the country.

Venera Khachirova thought she had lost her 17-year-old son Alan Khachirov two years ago. After going out with friends, he went missing for two weeks. He had been arrested by Georgian police.

“Our friends in a Georgian village told us they had seen him and two other boys being arrested by men in police uniform,” Venera told RT. “We have no idea where they are being held, everything we know came through friends in Georgia, the only thing I know is that he is still alive.”

The next time Venera saw her son alive was in a video that was posted by South Ossetian officials on the Internet.

According to official data, 39 Ossetians are currently imprisoned in Georgia. Seven more are listed as missing, one of which is Alan. They are accused of committing minor crimes, and most of them have been apprehended after crossing into Georgia.

Georgian authorities insist they do not abduct South Ossetians, but they do acknowledge arresting those caught trespassing on the Georgia-South Ossetia border. Officially, Tbilisi refuses to give out information on the prisoners' condition or where they are held.

Members of the Georgian opposition party For Fair Georgia filed an official request for information on Ossetian prisoners, but received no response.

“If both sides, Georgian and South Ossetian, undertake steps towards freeing prisoners, this will give an impetus towards the normalization of relations between Georgia and South Ossetia. Especially, in this case, when we are talking about the fate of a particular people, whose names we know,” says Koba Abuladze, For Fair Georgia party member.

Meanwhile, relatives in Tskhinval struggle on day after day, not knowing whether they will ever see their loved ones again.

“I have spent the last year and a half without my son. Now that I know he is alive, it has gotten a bit easier,” Venera adds.

She says the hope of seeing him return one day keeps her going.