Georgia jails Turkish ship captain 24 yrs for Abkhazia fuel

Its Turkish operator said the ship was in international waters and was detained at gunpoint.

Georgia jails Turkish ship captain  24 yrs for Abkhazia fuel

A Turkish ship captain was handed a 24-year jail sentence in Georgia on Tuesday for trying to deliver fuel to breakaway Abkhazia in breach of a Georgia's economic blockade of the Black Sea territory.

"Captain Mehmet Ozturk was sentenced to 24 years in jail because of breach of law on the occupied territories and breach of customs rules," judge Gela Kiria told Reuters from the western town of Kutaisi.

Georgia banned all economic and commercial activities in its two breakaway regions in the wake of last year's five-day war with Russia, when Moscow repelled a Georgian assault on rebel South Ossetia.

Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and backed them with several thousand troops.

Abkhazia calls the blockade an attempt by Georgia to suffocate the sub-tropical territory and threatens to respond in kind.

The fuel tanker, operating under a Panama flag with a Turkish and Azeri crew, was detained in the Black Sea by the Georgian coastguard last month carrying 2,000 tonnes of petrol and 700 tonnes of diesel.

Its Turkish operator said the ship was in international waters and was detained at gunpoint. Georgia said it was in Georgian territorial waters.

Kiria said the captain had made three trips to deliver fuel to Abkhazia. The tanker and its cargo were handed over to the state, and could be auctioned off. The crew was released.


Reuters

Last Mod: 02 Eylül 2009, 12:54
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