TBILISI (AFP)—An elderly Georgian woman who allegedly shut off internet service in her country and neighboring Armenia while scavenging for copper cable is facing charges that could lead to three years in prison.
In an interview the woman tearfully insisted she was innocent and said she had never heard of the web.
Authorities say 75-year-old Hayastan Shakaryan severed a fiber optic cable on March 28, shutting off the information highway in much of Georgia and all of Armenia for several hours. The cable ran parallel to a railroad track in eastern Georgia where she was allegedly scavenging.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Zurab Gvenetadze she has been charged with property destruction, which carries a sentence of up to three years, but it’s probable she would get a lighter sentence because of her age.
Shakarian, a Georgian of Armenian origin, told AFP that she was just a “poor old woman” who was not capable of committing such a crime.
“I did not cut this cable. Physically, I could not do it,” she said, repeatedly bursting into tears as she spoke.
Shakarian, who lives in the poverty-stricken Georgian village of Armazi, around 15 kilometers from the capital Tbilisi, said that she had only been collecting firewood.
“I have no idea what the internet is,” she added.
“My mother is innocent. She is crying all the time. She is so scared,” said her son, Sergo Shakarian.
The Georgian interior ministry said that despite her claims to innocence, Shakarian had already confessed to cutting the fiber-optic cable.
The incident on March 28 provoked lengthy debates on global internet discussion forums after it was widely publicized this week.
Around 800 people posted comments about the case on the Engadget technology website, some arguing that the authorities should show leniency because of Shakarian’s age and her impoverished situation.
The company that owns the fiber-optic cable, Georgian Railway Telecom, said that the damage was serious, causing 90 per cent of private and corporate internet users in neighboring Armenia to lose access for nearly 12 hours while also hitting Georgian Internet service providers.