TBILISI (Armenpress)–Twelve ethnic Armenian servicemen of the Georgian army abandoned their military unit on Tuesday in Akhaltsikhe and went absent without leave (AWOL)–claiming they were subjected to human rights abuses and intimidation from officers and other servicemen in the military unit–Itar-Tass reported.
All of these servicemen are residents of Akhalkalak–a town in the southern Georgian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti–predominately populated by ethnic Armenia’s.
Rustavi 2 television interviewed several of these AWOL servicemen on May 3. One private said in an interview: "We were beaten up in the military unit; we were frequently questioned about why we speak Armenian and not Georgian–but I do not speak Georgian." Another private complained that the officers were intimidating him and demanding money.
No official comment has been made by the Georgian defense ministry yet. The Georgian public defender’s office has launched a probe into the case. "I have talked with an official from the defense ministry and I think we can find a solution to this problem," Sozar Subeliani–the public defender–told Rustavi 2.