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Judge refuses to grant bail, sentences Okruashvili to pre-trial custody

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, July 29
Irakli Okruashvili, former Minister of Defense and the leader of the party “Victorious Georgia” was detained on July 25. He was officially charged the day after, under Article 225 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, for organizing or participating in group violence during the events of June 20-21.

A prosecutor on Okruashvili’s case, Vazha Todua stated that aside from the testimonies of the witnesses, there’s a video evidence of the ex-minister “urging the protesters to break through the police cordon to storm the parliament building,” he said.

According to the prosecutor, the investigation will determine what’s the relationship between Okruashvili and the other rally participants. A total of 19 people are detained for the June 20-21 events.

“The detection of these links is underway, as well as the identification of people who participated in violent actions. After the evidence is gathered, the court will discuss the accountability of the others,” said Todua.

Okruashvili’s lawyer, Mamuka Chabashvili, requested for him to be released on 10,000 GEL bail, but the request was rejected the ex-minister was sent to the Penitentiary Institution #9, the so-called ‘Matrosov prison’.

One of the leaders of the opposition party, ‘European Georgia’, Giga Bokeria called the arrest of Okruashvili a ‘political repression’.

“This is another step towards the political repression of Ivanishvili's regime. I want to appeal to the society that when we evaluate such events, we should not assess the politicians, whether it be Okruashvili or someone else, this is a separate topic, how someone views and evaluates rallies or political tastes, we are talking about what the authorities are doing, what are their standards,” said Bokeria.

A former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has also responded to Okruashvili’s arrest, recalling the tensions between the two.

“I have always had a difficult relationship with Irakli Okruashvili. He was used against me by forcing him to give false statements, because of his personal disposition, but this time he is certainly an innocent victim and throughout this time he was acting heroically,” said Saakashvili.

Indeed, Okruashvili’s political career during the United National Movement government and afterwards was full of tensions and large-scale scandals.

Once a close ally of Saakashvili, he started criticizing then-president for corruption and human rights violations. He was found guilty of “large-scale extortion” and was sentenced, in absentia, to 11 years in prison back in 2008. A month later, Okruashvili was granted political asylum in France. Later, in 2011, the ex-minister was also charged with the abuse of duties and money laundering, as well as the creation of illegal formations.

After the Georgian Dream came into power in 2012, Okruashvili returned to Georgia, only to be arrested in the airport. At the time, he said that the evidence against him was fabricated by Saakashvili’s government.

A few months later, he was cleared of several charges and was released on bail.

Last month Okruashvili formed a new opposition political party, ‘Victorious Georgia’, expressing readiness to cooperate with anyone opposing Bidzina Ivanishvili, including former members of his team.