Tbilisi court suspends opposition TV licence

The licence of Georgia’s main opposition television station, Imedi TV, has been suspended and its assets seized. Georgian Prosecutors have also issued an arrest warrant against former Defence Minister Irakly Okruashvili for breaching bail.

The Chairman of News Corp Europe, which owns Imedi, has described as 'ludicrous' government claims that it broadcast an interview calling for a coup.

The station was taken off the air on November 7 when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili imposed a state of emergency.

Georgia’s rebel minister back on wanted list

Meanwhile, Georgian Prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant against former Defence Minister Irakly Okruashvili for breaching bail.

“We applied to the court today to change Okruashvili's administrative punishment from bail to pre-trial detention. The court satisfied our request. Irakly Okruashvili will be declared wanted, according to the decision of the court,” said Ketevan Chomakhashvili, Georgian State Prosecutor.

Irakly Okruashvili has refused to return from Germany to attend his trial on corruption charges, which is due to begin on Friday.

Okruashvili was arrested in late September after he made the corruption allegations against President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Irakli Okruashvili may find himself  
            behind bars – again
Irakli Okruashvili may find himself behind bars – again

He was later released on a $US 6 million bail and left the country, saying he would return when summoned by the court.

The prosecutor is now demanding Okruashvili be put under arrest given the seriousness of the charges against him.

Okruashvili has not returned to Georgia yet and remains in Munich.

“The fact that the order for his arrest was issued two days before the trial is due to begin meant that Okruashvili was deprived of the right to attend this hearing. He has effectively been denied the right to participate in his own trial,” said Eka Beselia, the defence lawyer. 

Meanwhile, the country’s Parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze has announced a state of emergency in Georgia will be lifted on November 16.

Candidates confirmed for election

It comes as parties firm up candidates for an early election on January 5.

At least five candidates plan to run against President Saakashvili in the forthcoming election.

43-year-old Levan Gachechiladze has the backing of nine opposition parties.

It’s thought his first act as President would be to call a referendum to change Georgia into a parliamentary system.

The woman he favours as Prime Minister is Salome Zurabishvili – a former Foreign Minister and the leader of the Georgia's Way Party, whose motto is “Georgia without a president”.

“The decision to hold presidential elections was made by Saakashvili in order to create additional difficulties for the opposition,” she told Russia Today.

“We decided to answer in our own way by nominating a person who will beat Saakashvili by choosing a ticket where I’m the candidate prime minister to show that we are not fighting for the presidential job but against President Saakashvili and to prepare the country for parliamentary elections and a parliamentary system,” Mrs Zurabishvili said.

Georgian business tycoon and exile Badri Patarkatsishvili has also announced he'll run, although many believe he’s only doing it to gain immunity from charges of organising a coup.

Also in contention is Harvard economist Gia Maisashvili.  He's confident he and his Future Georgia Party have a chance, even though the campaign period is short.

“I don’t know how many candidates there will be, I am focusing on our campaign and on our message and our vision of the future,” Maisashvili said.

Georgia's Labour Party is also fielding a candidate.  Leader Shalva Natelashvili is standing despite accusations that he's in cahoots with the Russian government. His party would like to see Georgia transformed into a parliamentary republic, with close ties to both the EU and Russia.

And the last candidate to throw his hat into the ring is Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party. He’s pushing for a constitutional monarchy and closer ties with the West.

The European Union is keeping a close eye on election preparations.  EU Special Representative for South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, says it's vital to do something “meaningful in the short time that remains”.

Russia withdraws troops from Georgia

Meanwhile, Russia has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Georgia. The last train carrying equipment from the former 12th Russian military base left Georgian territory on Wednesday night.

The Russian military say there are no Russian troops in Georgia any more, except for the peacekeepers in the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The withdrawal has been carried out ahead of time. It was supposed to finish by the end of the next year.