Georgian frontier guards detain Chechen rebel suspect of Japanese descent

A district court in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi has issued a warrant for three-month pretrial detention of a Japanese national apprehended by Georgian frontier guards as he was trying to cross the Chechen segment of the Russo-Georgian border on August 17.

Vazha Natsvlishvili, Deputy to Georgia's National Security Minister, reported to the media that Minami Hiroshi, an Okayama native born in 1978, had attempted to illegally cross the border and that he had been escorted by a Chechen man, now also in custody.

The Japanese detainee is known to have arrived in Georgia several months ago and to have repeatedly shuttled to Turkey since then, Natsvlishvili said. Hiroshi also crossed into Chechnya and back more than once before his detention, the deputy minister added. During one of his trips to Chechnya, he reportedly converted to Islam.

Hiroshi himself admits to getting into Chechnya through the Pankisi Gorge to join the local rebels. Georgia's National Security Ministry says it is now verifying the information about whether the Japanese detainee really used to be an officer of Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

The frontier guards have turned the trespassers over to the National Security Ministry and it has opened an investigation into the incident. The Japanese rebel suspect, who was unarmed at the time of crossing, is facing illegal border crossing charges while the Chechen man is charged with illegal border crossing plus illegal bearing and smuggling of arms.

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