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New charges brought against Okruashvili

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, June 29
Georgia’s ex-Defence Minister, leader of the oppositional Georgian Party who is living in exile in France and has already been sentenced to 11 years in prison for money extortion, has been charged with the formation of an illegal armed group. In a statement released by the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office, Irakli Okruashvili has been accused of creating and leading the group. In case of finding guilty, the ex-Defence Minister could face 9 to 6 years in jail. “in legally defined dates the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office will appeal the court to choose preventive measure,” Georgian Justice Ministry said.

A group of people affiliated with Okruashvili’s Georgian Party were arrested earlier last week and charged with the formation of an illegal armed group, allegedly intending to provide military back-up for the return of Okruashvili to Georgia during May protest rallies in Tbilisi. According to the testimonies of the detained persons, issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Okruashvili was planning to enter Georgia through the occupied Tskhinvali region accompanied by up to 200 Russian servicemen. Georgian Party members then dismissed the accusations of the Georgian authorities, calling the material released by the ministry “falsified” and “absurd.”

One of the leaders of the Georgian Party, Erosi Kitsmarishvili downplayed the allegations of the authorities again on Tuesday, reiterating that testimonials are “falsified.” Speaking to Rustavi 2, Kitsmarishvili said he would not make a “serious comment” on this subject. “What the Prosecutor’s Office is doing and what the Interior Ministry is doing is not proof for anyone I guess. Last week’s materials were assessed as a falsification,” Kitsmarishvili said “These were testimonies received under torture. Whatever we saw, whatever was broadcast on TV as proof is a falsification and even a child would not find it credible,” he added.

Opposition MP of the Georgian Troup, Jondi Baghaturia has also expressed his skepticism over the materials released by the Interior Ministry. “If the government is planning to demand extradition of Okruashili based on the TV materials that we’ve seen, I think it sounds very non-credible,” MP Baghaturia noted “If they have some more proof, the decision of the French court will show this,” he said.

Ruling Party lawmakers, however have expressed their confidence that the footage issued by the law enforcers “indicate that there was an attempt to form armed groups.” “This is an action which is punishable by law, everything else is up to the investigation and the court,” National Movement MP, Davit Darchiashvili told reporters.

Okruashvili, who was dismissed from his post of the Defence Minister in November 2006, after two years in office, was briefly detained on corruption, money laundering and abuse of powers in 2007. Later he left for France and received a political asylum there. About a year later he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia.