The FINANCIAL — Authorities in Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia have repatriated the body of a Georgian man who died while in the custody of separatist officials.
The body of Archil Tatunashvili was transferred to Tbilisi-controlled territory on March 20, according to RFE/RL’s Georgian Service.
Georgian Interior Ministry official Alexander Khojevanishvili told journalists that the remains will be examined by forensic experts in the capital.
Authorities in the Russia-backed South Ossetia say 35-year-old Tatunashvili died of heart failure on February 22 after he allegedly attacked police as they tried to move him to a detention cell.
Separatist authorities detained Tatunashvili, who they said was plotting terrorist attacks in South Ossetia.
The incident has sparked outrage in Georgia and abroad.
The United States and European Union had called on Russia and South Ossetia to repatriate Tatunashvili’s body and to allow two other Georgian men remaining in the breakaway region to return home.
The U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, said on March 6 that Washington was “very supportive of the [Georgian] prime minister’s efforts and the efforts of his government to bring closure to the family of Mr. Tatunashvili and to the Georgian people, and of course accountability for what happened in this tragedy.
The European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s office said on February 25 that Tatunashvili’s death and the detention of the two others is a “source of grave concern.”
The president of the Council of Europe on February 27 expressed “outrage and sorrow” following news of the death of Tatunashvili.
“A transparent investigation is urgently needed to establish the circumstances behind his death and the responsibility for this act” said Gudren Mosler-Tornstrom in a statement on February 27.
The fate of Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili, the two other Georgian nationals detained with Tatunashvili but later reportedly released, remains unclear.
South Ossetia broke from Georgia after a war in the early 1990s. In 2008, Russia recognized it and another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states. The international community overwhelmingly recognizes the two territories as part of Georgia.