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Georgian Media Magnate Flees To South Ossetia

Malkhaz Gulashvili

Malkhaz Gulashvili

TBILISI -- A Georgian media mogul and religious group leader has confirmed that he has fled to Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Malkhaz Gulashvili, owner of the Georgian Times media holding, is wanted in Georgia for questioning in regard to a fracas that erupted following a television show on May 7 on the Kavkazia TV station.

During that show Gulashvili and other members of the People's Orthodox Movement, which he heads, objected to a recently published book satirizing the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Members of a second group, the Union of Orthodox Parents, assaulted and beat the book's author after he left the TV studio. They then forced their way into the TV building and damaged equipment.

Eight people were arrested, one of whom has since been released. The others are charged with hooliganism and obstructing journalists and have been remanded in pretrial detention for two months.

Gulashvili told the TV channel Rustavi-2 by telephone that his son has been attacked and threatened since the incident and that he and his family left for South Ossetia on May 10. He said if pressure from the Georgian authorities continues he may ask Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for political asylum.

Georgian Interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili denied on May 11 that Gulashvili is being pressured, according to the website Caucasian Knot.