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Three of detained Georgian photographers accused of espionage

RIA Novosti

12:26 09/07/2011

TBILISI, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - Four photojournalists, including Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's personal photographer and his wife, were detained on spying charges early on Thursday. They are accused of providing sensitive information to an "organization operating under the patronage of a foreign state's intelligence service."

Georgy Abdaladze, Zurab Kurtsikidze and Irakli Gedenidze are charged with espionage. The charges were brought at 3.00 a.m. local time on Saturday [11.00 p.m. GMT on Friday].

Irakli Gedenidze's spouse Natiya, who was also arrested, is now freed. She does not comment on the matter.

Photographers' lawyers say the detained do not admit their guilt.

Abdaladze's defender Mikhail Gogadze said that photographer continues a hunger strike, and feels worse comparing to yesterday.

Our Georgia opposition leader and Georgia's former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said on Friday that it is alarming when photo correspondents and journalists are detained in a country where freedom of the press is seriously limited.

Thursday's detention of four prominent Georgian photojournalists is not related to their professional activities, a spokeswoman for the Georgian president, Manana Mandzhgaladze said earlier on Friday.

I shouldn't speak in detail about this extremely sensitive matter, but there is one point I'd like to clarify: this case concerns a serious information leak. It has nothing to do with journalism or media activities," Mandzhgaladze said.

Mandzhgaladze said the detainees were not known for widely expressing their political views and therefore it was not correct to link their detention to a crackdown on media freedoms or political persecution.

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