Georgia President’s Photographer, Four Others Rounded Up As Spies

The official photographer for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Irakli Gedenidze ,and four other suspects, were taken into custody by Georgian authorities on suspicion of working for a foreign government. Gedenidze’s wife Natia, Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs photographer Giorgi Abdaladze and European PressPhoto Agency photographer Zurab Qurtsikidze were identified as the other arrestees, while an unnamed Associated Press photojournalist reputedly was held for a matter of hours and then released. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement July 7th on the arrests but specified neither the exact nature of the espionage nor the implicated foreign government. However, European PressPhoto Agency editor-in-chief, and Qurtsikidze’s boss, Cengiz Serem, disclosed that the charges against Qurtsikidze stemmed from photos allegedly dispatched to Russia. Mr. Serem refuted the allegations vehemently and maintained that the photos in question were pool photos available to any agency after presidential review.

The BBC reported the episode marked the first instance of journalists charged with espionage in Georgia. An unconnected spy incident occurred recently there, when nine arrests were made of suspected operatives for Russia, according to a Russian state newspaper. Four of the nine accused were Russian.

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