El Pais, The Alia
(Press Digest. Civil Georgia. 11.12.01) – Two Spanish businessmen Jose Luis Tremino and Francisco Rodriguez were finally freed after being kidnapped for more than a year. The two claim to have suffered torture while being kept in Pankisi gorge, northeastern part of Georgia. According to the Spanish paper El Pais, they were released after hours of tense negotiations by their captors with Mr. Rodriguez’s wife and Spanish security and diplomatic representatives. But somehow, Georgian State Security Ministry claims it is the one having released the hostages.
The two Spanish were kidnapped on November last year by four masked men when they were driving to the airport near Georgian capital Tbilisi. For the following 12 months they were, Mr. Rodriguez says, “treated worse than animals” as they were tied up lacking food and water.
In order not to disclose their location the rebels moved the two Spaniards to 16 different places in Pankisi. As Mr. Rodriguez says, during the whole 373 days of being kidnapped they were waiting for a shot in head. “Every day we would hear gunshots, and we believed their threat that they would cut off our ears, heads or whatever they felt like”, Mr. Rodriguez tells.
As it occurred the families of the kidnapped had to pay 300.000 Euro first and later add 250.000 Euro on to that. The captors threatened to send to the two families ears of the hostages if they would not receive the cash, El Pais reports.
The paper quotes two former hostages saying they do not intend to keep quite. They say they will seek revenge and do everything to pay the rebels back.
“Spain and Georgia, as well as the two hostage’s families, spent months attempting to secure their release but all efforts up until now had been fruitless”, El Pais reports.
Georgian newspaper Alia, on the other hand, talks about the unproductive, even illegal work of Georgian law enforcement agencies.
The kidnapped Spaniards were kept by criminal authorities in Pankisi. The operation of kidnapping is thought to be planned by Russian security services, and it must have been implemented by Georgian State Security. Head of the antiterrorist office Levan Kenchadze was to control the operation – the Alia tells.
As the paper reports, Levan Kenchadze asked families of the captured for 300.000 plus 50.000 dollars promising them to release the two businessmen. Nothing happened as a result. After demanding the money back Kenchadze stated he had already paid the money to criminal authority in Pankisi Vepkhia Margoshvili who was killed in October.
Version of the Georgian State Security taking part in the kidnapping can be supported by the fact that the rebels were not captured after release of the two Spaniards. Over 10 cases of kidnap, including the case of Arab businessmen and Georgian MP, took place this year in Georgia but none of the criminals were found or imprisoned.