Jonjoli, or bladdernut, is a shrub used for cooking in Georgia. (Photo by Georgia’s Ministry of Environment Protection.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The European Union Monitoring Mission to Georgia (EUMM) calls on South Ossetia to release all Georgians detained for picking the plant jonjoli.

Jonjoli, or bladdernut, is a shrub used for cooking in Georgia. It grows in the wild in areas adjacent to the disputed border line and can be sold in the markets.

Jonjoli picking is the main source of income for people who live in these villages, and now during the harvesting season there has been an uptick in detentions. Most detainees claim that they did not cross the border.

Since May 2, when the first group of jonjoli pickers were detained, the EUMM has observed five cases of detention, involving 26 local villagers.

There are currently 18 Georgians in detention in Tskhinvali on such charges. Usually, people are let go after paying a USD 60 fine.

“The Mission calls for the prompt release of all ‘jonjoli’ pickers still in detention,” EUMM wrote in a statement Monday, which calls for ‘consideration and understanding’ toward people living in villages near the disputed border with the breakaway region South Ossetia.

“Considering its importance for the livelihood of local people, the Mission urges all parties to show understanding towards pickers who may stray across the Administrative Boundary Line with South Ossetia.”