leonid tibilov

Leonid Tibilov, de facto president of the breakaway region South Ossetia. (RES.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The de facto president of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, on December 31 pardoned a Georgian who was serving a 13 year sentence for sedition after being involved in the region’s Tbilisi-backed administration.

According to a statement by the breakaway region’s Foreign Ministry, published on the website of its own news agency RES (cominf.org), Teimuraz Jerapov was Wednesday handed over to Georgia.

The statement says he was released as a sign of goodwill, and that the de facto authorities expect understanding from Georgia about the prisoner exchange between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, and issue which the latter has raised repeatedly at the Geneva talks and EU hosted field meetings called the Incident Response and Prevention Mechanism.

Jerapov was detained in the village Sinagura by the de facto Security Service in April 2010 and charged under the Criminal Code of Russia, section 278, which deals with “forcible seizure of power”. In November the same year, he was found guilty by the South Ossetian Supreme Court and has until now been serving his sentence in a prison camp, a so-called colony.

At the time when Jerapov’s alleged crime took place, the political map over South Ossetia looked like a chessboard pattern of villages, some governed by the breakaway regime in Tskhinvali, and some by a Tbilisi-backed administration.

Jerapov, who is a citizen of both Georgia and Russia, was minister of economic development in the Tbilisi-based South Ossetia administration and participated in that jurisdiction’s alternative presidential election in 2006. After this, the Tskhinvali authorities of South Ossetia launched a criminal case against participants in the election for ‘betrayal of the homeland.’