SOCIETY
JONJOLI FOREST HOSTAGES
16 May, 2013
Exclusive report from the ‘bordering’ village of Sachkhere region

Dwellers of Sachkhere region (Western Georgia) have come to pieces – kidnapping of people still goes on there in the 21st century. Today, instead of Lezhgians Georgians are kidnapped by Ossetians. Several days ago from the nearby forest Ossetians kidnapped 4 inhabitants of Khvani village of Sachkhere region. In Khvani we visited Petre Rikadze whose son, grand-son and nephew were taken prisoner by Ossetians.
Petre Rikadze’s grand-son, 22-year-old Tornike Rikadze was
in bed. He was taken by Ossetians in the morning. On the sixth day he returned from captivity – emaciated and tortured.
Temur Rikadze, Tornike Rikadze’s father: ‘The place where we collect jonjoli (traditional edible plant) is 20 km far from our village. When they took Tornike prisoner I was some distance away and didn’t see it. When I was told that he was taken, the same minute I made a mobile-phone-call. The call went through but it was terminated; as it turned out it had been taken away by Ossetians.
As Tornike told us, he went to the forest together with his friends and an armed man came to them. 6 men in uniforms were nearby. The boys didn’t resist because last year two people from our village who attempted to run were killed by the Ossetians.
Petre Rikadze, Tornike Rikadze’s grandpa, 83-year-old: The Ossetians first took my grand-son, three days later – my son Tengiz and my nephew.
Archil Rikadze, one of the prisoners, 60-year-old: ‘I was walking along the road when 7 men armed with submachine guns rushed out from the bushes. One was Ossetian, the others – Russians. I started trembling from fear. I was going to run but they threatened to shoot. They couldn’t decide for a long time whether to let me go or not. The Ossetian told them to set me free and they agree. Before I left, the Ossetian told me not to appear in the vicinity for three days because if the group on duty caught me they wouldn’t let me go. The next day I again went to forest. Suddenly I heard rustling and turning round I saw a man with Tommy-gun. He pressed the barrel against my ribs and ordered to follow him or he’d kill me on the spot. The Ossetians badly mentioned Georgians.
From Znauri we were taken to Tskhinvali. They took us to military police headquarters and from there – to the cell. There were 24 imprisoned Georgians but when they set us free, new ones were added – they were added every day. I and Tengiz were in a 10-men cell. When interrogating they tormented people. They were especially strict with regard to the young ones. They were questioning them during the night, beating them. The boys were forced to wash some people’s cars. Some of them were so heavily beaten that they were moaning. We couldn’t help; if I said something they would kill me. They asked me who started war in 2008 – Ossetians or Georgians. I told them – Saakashvili and they liked the answer. They asked me if I wanted the Ergneti market to start functioning and I answered of course I did as we always were friends with Ossetians and wanted the same now. They said they wanted it too but Saakashvili was to be blamed for creating the current situation.
A woman who was with us got upset stomach but they didn’t let her go to the toilet. Daily three times were we allowed to go to the toilet and out of fear we couldn’t even drink water. How can a man be humiliated like that? Of course, I won’t again go to collect jonjoli. I wish nobody to fall into their hand.”
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