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Buket's Turkish operator appeals Georgian jail term for captain

RIA Novosti

12:10 02/09/2009 ANKARA, September 2 (RIA Novosti) - The Turkish company operating the Buket tanker seized by Georgia while en route to Abkhazia in mid-August has appealed its captain's prison sentence, the company's general director said.

A Georgian court on Monday sentenced Mehmed Dzhoshkun Ozturk to 24 years in prison for smuggling and violating the ban on unauthorized economic activity in what Georgia considers an occupied territory. Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another former Georgian republic, as independent states last August after a brief war with Georgia.

The company's general director said the appeal was made on Tuesday and a response was expected within 30 days.

The Panama-flagged Buket was transferred to Georgian government ownership and could be sold at auction by the Finance Ministry.

According to a Georgian court decision, the crew of four Azerbaijani citizens and 12 Turks will be freed on $30,000 bail within two days.

Georgia seized the Buket and its cargo on August 16 as it was carrying over 2,000 of gasoline and 770 metric tons of diesel to Abkhazia.

Tbilisi considers Abkhazia and its waters part of Georgian territory, and as part of efforts to isolate the republic has declared any unauthorized shipments of goods to be illegal.

On August 26, the republic celebrated the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of its independence. So far the only other country to have recognized it and South Ossetia is Nicaragua.


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