TBILISI (Reuters) - Police in Georgia arrested five photojournalists overnight including the personal photographer of President Mikheil Saakashvili, and relatives said they were being held by the counter-intelligence service.
Zurab Kurtsikidze, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency, Shakh Aivazov of The Associated Press, freelancer Giorgi Abdaladze and presidential photographer Irakli Gedenidze and his photographer wife Natia were detained, relatives and colleagues said on Thursday.
Gedenidze and his wife were arrested in the middle of the night at their home, Gedenidze's mother Marina told Reuters. She said police later called to say they were being held by the counter-intelligence service.
Abdaladze's wife Neiko said one of the arresting officers had told her the case concerned alleged espionage.
"They came at 2 a.m. (2200 GMT), searched the house and took his cameras, computers and mobile phones," she told Reuters.
Senior Interior Ministry officials were not available for comment.
Police in Georgia have arrested dozens of people on charges of spying for Russia over the past three years since the ex-Soviet neighbors fought a brief war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Moscow has accused the pro-Western government under Saakashvili, which came to power with the 2003 Rose Revolution, of anti-Russian hysteria.
(Reporting by David Mdzinarishvili and Margarita Antidze, writing by Matt Robinson, editing by Mark Trevelyan)