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Georgian rebel minister arrested in Germany

Georgia`s former Defence Minister and opposition leader Irakly Okruashvili has been arrested in Germany, according to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. In September, 34-year-old Okruashvili accused the country`s President Mikhail Saakashvili of corruption.

Okruashvili was arrested and charged with money laundering, abuse of office and negligence. He was reportedly linked to the suspicious manipulation of shares and property. Later he was released on a $US 6 MLN bail after he admitted his guilt.

Shortly afterwards he left the country.

The former Minister failed to show up at the preliminary court hearings in Tbilisi, which lead to a warrant being issued for his arrest.

German prosecutors have confirmed Okruashvili's arrest. The Prosecutor General's Office of Georgia has refused to comment on Okruashvili's arrest.

Georgian prosecutors have a 40 day deadline to provide all evidence to German authorities.

“The reason for detention was an arrest warrant issued by the Georgian authorities and spread to Interpol. Georgia is also part of the corresponding European agency. The detained person is to stand before a judge and is allowed to make statements,” Michael Grunwald from Germany's General Prosecutor's office said before adding: “The extradition issue will be decided by the Court of Berlin in a couple of days.”

Also on Wednesday, Ekkehard Maas, director of Germany's Caucasian Society, said Irakly Okruashvili and his family applied for political asylum before being arrested.

Meanwhile, Okruashvili's supporters say he would not get a fair trial in Georgia, and vow to bring his case to international attention.

“We will be requesting political asylum for Irakly Okruashvili in the European Union and specifically in Germany via the German embassy in Tbilisi and through international channels. We will try to prove to the international community that this man is a political refugee,” Okruashvili supporter Georgy Tsagareishvili said.

If Okruashvili is extradited, and convicted he may face a lengthy prison term in Georgia.