Civic activist in South Ossetia announces hunger strike in protest against persecution by authorities
Civic activist and ethnic Georgian Tamara Mearakishvili lives in South Ossetia and has been on trial for several months for several charges against her which she claims are illegal and unfounded.
Now, she is trying to attract attention towards the court trials against her by announcing a hunger strike starting today on 2 July.
Tamara Mearakishvili wrote on her Facebook page:
“This is all being done in order to attract the attention of the public as to how the authorities are persecuting me because of my civil work and my opinions. I have not committed any crimes. All the [criminal] cases opened against me by the prosecutor’s office have been fabricated. And this nightmare has been going on for 11 months. The trials in which I participate are my own suits. The prosecutor’s office is not rushing to get the case into court. They want to exhaust me, both spiritually and materially. Every day my rights are violated, and the authorities answer with silence”.
The prosecutor’s office of the Leningor District of South Ossetia [ed. in Georgian terminology, Akhalgori], has launched three cases against Tamara Mearakishvili.
The specifics: in August 2017, the prosecutor’s office accused her of slander in an article she published with RFE/RL, in which she criticised a member of the ruling “United Ossetia” party, Spartak Dryaev. Mearakishvili then brought a lawsuit to Tskinhval court and accused the prosecutor’s office of illegal criminal persecution.
Later in March 2018, Mearakishvili was faced with another case: this time she was accused of falsifying documents and ‘illegally receiving the citizenship of South Ossetia’. The police say that they discovered that she had two passports – a South Ossetian passport and a Georgian passport, which is not permitted by law in South Ossetia.
The investigation has been going on for 11 months, and Tamara Mearakishvili has been banned from leaving South Ossetia.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Tamara Mearakishvili said that she has been persecuted and observed all this time and that it “instils fear” in her.
“I do not demand that the criminal cases themselves come to an end. Just the opposite: I want for everything to be transparent, in order to get to the end of this affair within the framework of the law. But I cannot by myself stand up against the arbitrariness of an entire state, all of these armed men. The aim of my hunger strike is to call out these men [who persecute me] so that they respect the bare minimum of the law and my rights”.
Russian political scientist Nikolay Silaev told RFE/RL that “those that are persecuting her are going to end up in a rather ridiculous situation”.
“They are trying to force, first, a woman who is a native to the region to be quiet. Second off, a person who is not saying anything bad about South Ossetia. It would seem to me that we need to look twice at this situation – a Georgian woman from Leningor district is speaking very fairly, calmly and with good intentions about South Ossetia. It is a shame that things have come to her having to go on a hunger strike. I hope that the South Ossetian authorities will get their act together, and, say, leave her alone. Everyone who has been following this case sees that it looks absolutely silly”.
Social media users have also been discussing Mearakishvili’s situation and are largely supportive:
“Bibi’s [Anatoly Bibilov, the president of South Ossetia – JAMnews] answer will be such: “You want to starve? Starve! It’s all the same to me.”
“I hope to God that I’m not right, but I doubt that, because last night he told people that he didn’t care – if you want to die, die.”