The Kidnapped Doctor

Between 9 and 11 November, the occupation forces detained three Georgian citizens for “illegally crossing the border:” Ramaz Zadishvili, David Mishelashvili, and Zurab Tukhashvili. These three Georgian civilians were released by November 14. However, a renowned Georgian physician and traumatologist, Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces, remains in custody. The Georgian State Security Service has confirmed that the Georgian doctor has been under arrest since November 9.

The Georgian Public Broadcaster reported that Gaprindashvili was detained near the village of Orchosani [under Russian control] for “illegally crossing the border.” His family members believe that the Tbilisi-born doctor was there to aid a patient as the border being closed prevents the ill from seeking medical help.

The "security committee of Tskhinvali" released a statement regarding the illegal detention of the doctor on November 13, four days after the man was kidnapped.

The famous Georgian doctor and traumatologist has been sent to two months of pretrial detention, Ossetian media reported on Friday. The trial was held the same day, on November 15. Gaprindashvili was charged with 'illegally crossing the border,' of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region. The verdict was made by the occupational regime on November 15. Vazha Gaprindashvili was allegedly incriminated for “illegally crossing the border” under Article 322 of the Criminal Code of Russia.

The illegal detention of the Georgian doctor, who could only be blamed for taking his Hippocratic Oath seriously, has raised much unrest in local and international society. While the hotline was activated by the European Union Monitoring Mission and negotiations are in progress regarding his release, international media dedicates articles to the Gaprindashvili case. Euronews and the New York Times have called the occupational forces who detained Gaprindashvili ‘separatists’, giving historical context to the conflict of South Ossetia. “Georgia on Sunday demanded the release of a doctor detained by separatists after crossing into breakaway South Ossetia, which is controlled by Russia after a war between two ex-Soviet republics in 2008,” wrote Euronews.

And it isn’t just international media, as society has expressed as much concern over the detention of the well-established Georgian doctor. On Saturday November 16, the US Embassy in Georgia published a statement urging for the immediate release of Doctor Gaprindashvili.

“The US Embassy calls for the immediate release of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili, a well-known Georgian physician and President of the Association of Orthopedists and Traumatologists of Georgia, who was sentenced by the de facto authorities in Georgia’s South Ossetia region on November 15 to two months of pretrial detention. Additionally, we again call for the immediate end to closures of the crossing points along the administrative boundary line. We reiterate our full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. We once again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions and the provision of free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions, as well to reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states,” reads the statement of the US Embassy published on Saturday.

Justin McKenzie Smith, the Ambassador of the UK to Georgia, spoke up about the illegal detention of the Georgian medic on November 17. “Sincerely hope reports #Georgia|n Dr #Gaprindashvili will be released soon are confirmed. When access to healthcare & education is becoming critical for many in #SouthOssetia, hard to understand what Russia-backed de facto authorities gain by locking up medical professionals,” wrote the British Ambassador on his official Twitter page.

Before the British Ambassador’s Tweet, Georgian State Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said the talks are ongoing and she is “certain” Vazha Gaprindashvili will be released in a few days.

During the Georgian angst and support for Doctor Gaprindashvili, the movement 'Freedom for Doctor Vazha' was established. The movement released a statement on Monday morning, reporting a rally of 'White Coats' was to be held at noon on Monday in front of medical facilities.

“The rally will be held to express our support for Vazha Gaprindashvili and to protest his illegal detention. We will stand together and hold a five-minute silent protest,” the statement reads.

Especially in the last few days, a close-up of Georgian society revealed that nothing unites this nation as a uniting protest does, be it against the government or the abduction of a heroic doctor. Georgians have become so much of a ‘one entity’ and they have spoken up about their concern so much that even Facebook profile pictures of many have specific frames that read: Freedom for Doctor Vaja.

By Nini Dakhundaridze

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18 November 2019 19:48