TBILISI -- Prominent Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili has been sentenced to one year and nine months in prison in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, his family and lawyers say.
His daughter, Irina Gaprindashvili, confirmed to RFE/RL a statement by Georgia's Association of Lawyers saying the doctor was jailed on December 20 for allegedly crossing the region’s border illegally.
Gaprindashvili, president of Georgia's association of orthopedists and traumatologists, was detained by Russia-backed separatists on November 9 after crossing the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia.
The doctor has insisted that he did not break any laws as South Ossetia is Georgian territory.
Gaprindashvili was said to be traveling to the region in an attempt to reach a patient who needed medical treatment.
Georgian villagers living near the loosely guarded rural boundary are often detained on similar grounds. But the detention of Gaprindashvili, a high-profile local figure, has drawn more attention.
Hundreds of Georgians, including Gaprindashvili's relatives, colleagues, politicians, and civic activists have rallied to demand that the doctor be freed.
The Georgian government, the United States, and the human rights group Amnesty International have also called for Gaprindashvili's immediate release and a reopening of all crossing points along the South Ossetia boundary.
Russian authorities have not commented on the case yet.
Moscow has recognized South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region, Abkhazia, as independent states since the five-day Georgia-Russia war in August 2008.
Russian troops are now stationed in the two regions, and Georgia and most of the international community consider both of them to be occupied territories.