July 7, 2011 - 16:07 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Georgia on Thursday, July 7, arrested four news photographers, including President Mikheil Saakashvili's personal photographer, on accusations of spying for a foreign country, the interior ministry said.
"The arrested are accused of passing information that they obtained because of their work to an organization acting undercover for the intelligence services of a foreign country, against the interests of Georgia," it said.
The four detained included Saakashvili's personal photographer Irakli Gedenidze, the statement said. Gedenidze has taken a large number of pictures printed in the international media of Saakashvili.
"Very serious charges will be put forward," Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze told AFP, saying that the investigation into the alleged espionage was still under way.
However a photographer working for the Associated Press who was also arrested overnight was released without charge.
Those who remain under arrest are European Pressphoto Agency photographer Zurab Kurtsikidze, Foreign Ministry press centre photographer Giorgi Abdaladze, and Gedenidze's wife, local newspaper photographer Natia Gedenidze.
Local media reported that relatives of the detained said police had seized computers and other equipment when they raided the photographers' homes during the night.
According to the first part of the article 314 of the Georgian Criminal Code, collecting, keeping of the object, document, information or any other data containing the state secret of Georgia or transferring thereof to a foreign country, foreign organization or their representative, or extortion or transference of other information by commission of the surveillance of a foreign state or a foreign organization to the detriment of the interest of Georgia – shall be punishable by prison sentences ranging from eight to twelve years in length.