Prominent Georgian Doctor Released From Prison In Separatist South Ossetia

TBILISI – Prominent Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili has been released from prison in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Gaprindashvili, president of Georgia’s association of orthopedists and traumatologists, was released on December 28 after being reportedly “pardoned” by the de facto president of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov.

Speaking shortly after his release, Gaprindashvili said he was “full of emotions” while thanking those who had rallied to call for his release.

“I’d like to thank those who were worried for me,” he said.

Gaprindashvili was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison on December 20 for allegedly crossing the region’s border illegally. He insisted that he had not broken any laws as South Ossetia is Georgian territory.

Gaprindashvili was said to be traveling to the region in an attempt to reach a patient who needed medical treatment.

Georgian villagers living near the loosely guarded rural boundary are often detained on similar grounds. But the detention of Gaprindashvili, a high-profile local figure, had drawn more attention, with hundreds of citizens, including relatives, colleagues, politicians and civic activists, calling for his release.

The Georgian government, the United States, and the human rights group Amnesty International had also called for Gaprindashvili’s immediate release and a reopening of all crossing points along the South Ossetia boundary.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia are Russian-backed separatist regions that have declared independence from Georgia. Russia recognized the regions as independent states following a short war with Tbilisi in August 2008. Only a few countries followed Russia’s lead.

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