Joint NGO Statement on 7 July Special Operation in Mestia
On 7 July, Local Council Member Neli Naveriani and her three relatives – Shota Japaridze, Tariel Japaridze and Davit Japaridze – were arrested on extortion charges in Mestia. The detainees were transferred to the Zugdidi preliminary detention jail on the same day. Two helicopters were sent to Mestia to take Neli Naveriani to Zugdidi since local residents had blocked the road and it was impossible to transfer her in a car. For two years now, Neli Naveriani and her relatives have been trying to reclaim a hayfield that belonged to their ancestors but had been sold to a Canadian investor – William James Simpson – by the authorities. Although Neli Naveriani had not registered this land with the Public Registry, her family has been using it for several decades.1 Generally, a majority of the residents of mountain areas, including Mestia, are yet to formalize legal ownership of the land that they possess.