July 7th, 2011

Georgian Photographers Arrested on Suspicion of Espionage

Police in Georgia arrested four photographers, including the personal photographer of Georgia’s president and a photojournalist with European Pressphoto Agency, during an early morning raid today, according to a statement from the Georgia Interior Ministry. The BBC reports that the ministry has accused the photographers of working against the interests of Georgia by supplying the special service of an unnamed country with information.

The four photographers are Irakli Gedenidze, photographer to President Mikheil Saakashvili; Georgian foreign ministry photographer Georgy Abdaladze; and Zurab Kurtsikidze of EPA. Gedenidze’s wife, Natia, was also arrested and is under investigation. Associated Press photographer Skakh Aivazov was also detained, but was released after several hours, AP reports.

Relatives of the photographers reported that they were arrested in their homes in the early morning by plainclothes officers who seized cameras, cellphones and computers, according to Reuters. Dozens of journalists rallied outside the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi to protest the detentions.

The photographers’ arrests came the same week several Georgians and some Russians were convicted in a Georgian court of spying for Russia, which fought a war with Georgia in 2008.  As the BBC notes, this is the first time journalists have been accused of spying.