TBILISI, DFWatch – The Georgian monk who mysteriously disappeared in Abkhazia is free after 25 days of captivity and has returned home.

The monk Iona, or Mamuka Maisuradze, was detained in Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia nearly three weeks ago.

Shota Utiashvili, head of the analytical department at the Georgian Interior Ministry, confirmed the monk’s release on Saturday.

“I’m happy to inform you that the efforts have been productive. Father Iona is released from being a hostage and is transferred to Georgian controlled territory,” he said, adding that they were demanded 100 000 dollars as ransom in Abkhazia. However, Georgia did not negotiate about a ransom.

Monk Iona, who is currently in Tbilisi, is serving his second year at the Trinity Cathedral, known locally as Sameba and the biggest cathedral in the country.

Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said he hoped such crimes would never be repeated on the territory of Georgia.

Later on Saturday President Mikheil Saakashvili met the released monk and said everybody were very nervous about his kidnapping and worked hard to have him released.

“The special operation ended without spilling of blood. This was a band of criminals,” the monk said at the meeting with the president. He thanked the people who had contributed to his release.

Monk Iona is from Gali, an area in the south of the Russian-controlled region Abkhazia, and close to Georgian-controlled territory. People living in Gali are mostly of Georgian origin.

The reason he left for Abkhazia, according to his relative, is that he wanted to bring building material for the restoration of Ilori Saint George Church, which was built in the XI century, a Georgian historical monument, located on the territory of Abkhazia.