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8 Oct, 2007 12:15

Georgian ex-Defence Minister said to drop accusations against Saakashvili

A Tbilisi court has set bail at $US 6 MLN for the release of former Georgian Defence Minister Irakly Okruashvili. The latter has retracted his previous accusations against President Mikhail Saakashvili.

The Prosecutor General's Office also says Mr Okruashvili has admitted very serious charges, those of professional negligence and partial guilt of extortion. He was arrested on September 27 and charged with corruption, money laundering and abuse of office.

“I want to inform you that Okruashvili expressed his wish to co-operate with the investigation and has partially admitted his guilt. In particular, he admitted that he had extorted a share in a mobile operator Geocell, and negligence of his duties. Also, today Irakly Okruashvili has stood trial and the court has changed the preventive punishment from custody, to releasing him  on bail, unprecedented for Georgian judicial system, at 10 MLN lari,” Nicolos Gvaravia, Deputy Prosecutor General, stated.

Meanwhile, according to a local news agency, Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili left the country soon after Okruashvili pleaded guilty to a string of offenses.

One of the leaders of the ruling United National Movement party says the former Defence Minister had been colluding with the businessman in an attempt to plot a coup.

However, Georgian opposition leaders say Irakly Okruashvili made the admission under severe pressure.

In a tape released by the Prosecutor Generals’ Office from an interrogation last night, the former Defence Minister totally repudiated everything that he had laid against Mikhail Saakashvili, including corruption and plotting assassinations.  

“The important statements that I made, were made for purely political reasons. As for the death of the former Prime Minister, Zurab Zhvania, I don’t have anything to add to the official version made public by the investigation team. As for my accusations regarding the authorities, pressurizing politicians, and other prominent figures, telephone tapping including my wife’s telephone, I can’t confirm them and I have no evidence,” Irakly Okruashvili said.

He also touched upon one of his most serious accusations, which was that President Saakashvili had ordered him to murder an influential businessman and a critic of the government Badri Patarkatsishvili – the world’s richest Georgian. Mr Okruashvili stated that the only reason for making such a serious allegation was to gain political points, and get access to the popular independent Imedi TV channel, owned by the businessman. 

Earlier this week, however, Okruashvili’s lawyer told the media that his client demanded to be interrogated on those charges.  

The event came as a shock in Georgia as no one was expecting this. Mr Okruashvili’s lawyer, Eka Baselia says she had no idea about what was going on, since she wasn’t at the interrogation where the former minister repudiated his allegations, and she wasn’t at the hearing where he admitted his guilt either.

What makes the situation event more confusing is that this news came just days after protests held by Irakly Okruashvili supporters and other opposition parties in Georgia. They all were protesting his innocence.

To read the background of Irakly Okruashvili's arrest please follow the link.