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Georgia Releases Turkish Tanker Captain

A court in the Georgian city of Kutaisi has ordered the release of a Turkish ship captain sentenced for violating an economic embargo on the country's breakaway region Abkhazia.

Georgian officials say the court freed Captain Mehmet Coskun Ozturk on payment of an $18,000 fine.

The court acted after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu discussed the case in Tbilisi with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

A court last week sentenced the captain to 24 years in prison.

The Georgian Coast Guard detained the Turkish cargo ship Buket last month on the Black Sea with a cargo of 2,000 tons of gasoline and 700 tons of diesel fuel destined for the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi.

Georgia says the tanker was detained in Georgian waters.  The ship's operator says it was seized at gunpoint on the high seas.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and another breakaway region of Georgia, South Ossetia, as independent countries last year, after a brief Russian-Georgian conflict. 

Russia says it sent its troops into Georgia in response to Georgian military efforts to regain control of South Ossetia by force.  Georgia says it used military force only to defend itself against the Russian invasion.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.
 

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