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Okruashvili under house arrest in Paris

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 1
Former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili has been released from custody in Paris, but remains under house arrest awaiting a decision by a French court on extradition to Georgia, the Prosecutor General’s Office said yesterday.

Okruashvili’s passport was confiscated and he is forbidden from leaving Paris, reporting twice weekly to a local police station while the court considers his case, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Okruashvili, formerly a close political ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, has applied for political asylum in France, claiming in an interview with the German magazine Spiegel that extradition would be tantamount to a “death sentence.”

Yesterday his lawyer, Eka Beselia, told the television station Rustavi 2 that, contrary to Georgian media reports, he had not paid bail to secure his release from prison.

“He will now wait for the resolution in Paris on February 27 of the issue on extradition and I'm sure that this issue too will be resolved positively,” she said.

The former minister was arrested in Berlin at the end of November on the request of the Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office and transferred to France on January 9, in accordance with the Dublin Convention which specifies that the state which issued the visa to an asylum seeker must review the asylum application.

He was first arrested in Georgia on September 27—two days after he launched a political opposition party—and charged with corruption stemming from his time as defense minister, before being released on bail.

His arrest sparked street protests in Tbilisi, and was instrumental in galvanizing the political opposition into holding large-scale anti-government demonstrations in early November.

Okruashvili flew to Germany on November 1, the day before a planned mass anti-government rally. The government claimed he was allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment; he maintains he was coerced into leaving by authorities.

Earlier this week Beselia said her client could be admitted to hospital following a 17-day hunger strike in prison, in protest of the January 5 presidential election which the opposition claim was rigged.

Meanwhile, representatives of Okruashvili’s Movement for a United Georgia party have appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office to be permitted to reenter the sealed party premises.

Yesterday Beselia called on the Prosecutor General to return an inventory and documents that she says authorities confiscated from the party office when arresting Okruashvili.