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12 Dec, 2007 14:07

Georgian banned TV station back - to tune in presidential campaign?

The Georgian opposition channel Imedi is broadcasting again, more than a month after being pulled off air by the government. The Georgian authorities accused it of airing material which encouraged a coup.

Armed and masked special forces officers rushed into Imedi's building and the independent broadcaster was switched off.

It took Imedi less than a week to prepare to resume transmission. The staff were first let into the office on December 7 and since then feverish activity hasn't stop for a moment. 

“Our satellite transmitter disappeared so we stayed awake for three days trying to assemble it on our own. It will let us broadcast again to the country's regions and abroad,” said Nikolay Chomakhidze, Chief of Technical Department.

The Georgian president had been under pressure from the U.S. and Europe to restore the channel, which is co-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. 

Last week the Tbilisi court took the decision to restore the station's licence.

After a month away the staff returned to discover that crucial equipment had been destroyed or confiscated during the raid.

The station is co-owned by one of the candidates, Badri Patarkatsishvili, a billionaire tycoon and ardent critic of the government. He is accused of plotting a coup by the authorities who will be watching upcoming broadcasts on the Imedi channel with interest.