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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Locked Up in a State that Does Not Exist

Alan Parastayev's family says he was beaten and then refused urgent medical treatment in prison. But there is nothing they can do about it because the state holding him in jail does not officially exist.

Parastayev is being held on treason charges in South Ossetia, a tiny sliver of land in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains that declared its independence from Georgia but has not been recognized by any country.

"Who should I approach? There is a complete lack of clarity -- South Ossetia is de facto Russia but de jure Georgia," said Parastayev's sister.

"I am afraid for his life. For over six months I have approached everyone and no one can help, no one can say anything," Inga said at her home outside Moscow.

Parastayev is accused of plotting with Georgia to kill South Ossetia's pro-Russian leader, Eduard Kokoity. Parastayev's family says he was framed and then beaten into making a confession -- allegations that are being investigated by rights group Amnesty International.

Parastayev appears to have been sucked into the poisonous feud among Georgia, the separatists and their Russian allies over South Ossetia, scene of one of the so-called frozen conflicts that help destabilize parts of the old Soviet Union.

The widespread fear is that the feud could turn violent again. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili raised the stakes last week by saying he planned to resolve the conflict within "a matter of several months," though he did not say how.

South Ossetia's administration denied allegations Parastayev had been mistreated. "He was not beaten, and Alan Parastayev himself has said that he is being treated properly," a spokeswoman said.

"He is of course unhappy with the accusations against him and is trying to defend himself," the spokeswoman said. She said he would be put on trial soon.

A former head of the region's top court, Parastayev was part of a separatist camp that is out of step with Kokoity because it takes a more moderate line with Georgia. Parastayev was detained in November and soon after made a televised confession that he was part of a plot to assassinate Kokoity. The confession was aired on the eve of a referendum that reaffirmed South Ossetia's desire for independence.

A Reuters correspondent was shown photographs of heavy bruising on Parastayev's legs, arms and stomach. His sister said he has kidney and stomach problems.

"We know about the case and are aware that there are allegations that he was beaten and we saw photographs which show bruises on his body," said Amnesty International researcher Anna Sunder-Plassmann.

"According to what we know there has not been an independent investigation into the allegations of mistreatment," she said.