|Georgian police detain photographers in alleged foreign agent ring|
|Thursday, 07 July 2011|
Moscow/Tbilisi - The Georgian government on Thursday confirmed that police had detained four photographers as part of a bid to prevent them from working 'under the cover of special services' for foreign governments.
Those detained were a staff photographer from news organization European Pressphoto Agency (epa), the personal photographer of President Mikheil Saakashvili, and a staff photographer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Police on Wednesday night conducted a six-hour raid of the apartment of epa photographer Zurab Kurtsikidze, confiscating camera equipment, computers and digital memory materials.
Kurtisikidze was being held in a station in the Georgian capital Tbilisi and police were not allowing him to contact his employers, said Oksana Fetisova, an epa spokeswoman.
Officers from Georgia's national counter-intelligence agency in similar house raids also detained the president's photographer, Irakli Gedenidze, and Foreign MInistry photographer Georgy Abduladze.
All would be charged with 'the transfer of various information to organizations working under the cover of special services of a foreign government,' and so harming Georgia's national interests, the ministry said.
Kursikidze, Gedenidze and Abduladze are among Georgia's most experienced professional photographers. Nestan Neidze, Abduladze's wife, in comments to Interfax said allegations her husband was a secret agent for a foreign government 'absurd ... or some kind of misunderstanding.'
A staff photographer for the US news agency Associated Press also was detained by Georgian counter-intelligence officers but released on Thursday morning. He told reporters in Tbilisi police had questioned him as a witness but not charged him.
The dententions took place only hours before a court in the Georgian city Batumi sentenced nine people to between 11 and 14 years in prison for spying for Russia.
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