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6 Nov, 2007 10:18

Georgian rebel minister wanted?

Georgia’s General Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed the corruption charges against Irakli Okruashvili and said the former defence minister could be put on a wanted list. The statement comes after Okruashvili, in a televised address to the protestors in Tb

“The accusations against Irakli Okruashvili have not been dropped. He was bailed for $US 6 million. If he doesn’t show up at the demand of the Prosecutor General’s Office, his bail will be transferred to Georgia’s budget. If his guilt is perceived to be stronger, he will be put on a wanted list,” stated Deputy Prosecutor General, Nikoloz Gvaramiya. 

Okruashvili left the country after being released on bail while facing corruption charges, which stemmed from allegations that Mr Saakashvili was behind a string of crimes. His treatment sparked the massive protests in Georgia which started on Thursday.

In an interview broadcast from Munich, Okruashvili accused the President of wasting the chance to build a strong and independent country.

“Today the country is ruled by a modern Adolf Hitler -a person who sees his personal dignity as the only valuable thing. He doesn't see further than that. He's not interested in other people's dignity and rights. When I made that statement I clearly understood what pressure can be exerted on me, what can happen to me. But I made that step consciously. I turned Georgia upside down,” Mr Okruashvili said.

The Prosecutor General’s Office says the charges against Irakli Okruashvili have not been dropped and that he may be put on a wanted list. The former defence minister described himself as a political refugee who has been forced out of the country.

“Every allegation, every fact that I have said against Saakashvili is true, but it is obvious that I did not have the opportunity to prove it through the existing jurisdiction system in Georgia. I could not even prove the truth against stupid allegations brought against me in the Georgian court. And, of course, proving that the President is guilty is absurd and impossible,” he said. 

The government has said that Okruashvili’s statements are an attempt by influential businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili and his opposition allies to boost what they describe as a waning protest.

Okruashvili, however, insists he has had no contacts with the businessmen since becoming a member of the opposition and that he wasn’t planning any co-operation.

Meanwhile Moscow has described the latest events in Georgia as a farce.

“I wouldn’t like to comment on what these politicians said. It seems that the farce accompanying actions by Georgian politicians is quite obvious to everyone. I’m convinced that Georgians deserve a better future and they can always rely on Russia,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Fifth day of protests

Meanwhile, protests in the capital Tbilisi have entered the fifth day.

About 5,000 protesters are in front of Georgia’s parliament building in Tbilisi. They want Mr Saakashvili to resign and early parliamentary elections to be called.

Four protesters, including a member of parliament and three opposition leaders, have declared a hunger strike until their demands are met.

Meanwhile, government members continue to play the situation down, stressing the importance of dialogue.

“I want to say that the meeting with the heads of the parliamentary opposition factions was truly quite constructive. And I hope that at a minimum it will yield constructive results,” said Nino Burdzhanadze, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament.