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Authorities Soften Stance on Labor Party Leader
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Nov.'07 / 21:11

Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the opposition Labor Party, will not be arrested and he can “freely run for the presidency” in January's election, President Saakashvili said on November 10.

The General Prosecutor’s Office said on November 9 that Natelashvili would face charges for espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. The General Prosecutor’s Office, however, said on November 10 that “investigators have decided to question Natelashvili as a witness.”

Both statements by President Saakashvili and the General Prosecutor’s Office, follow an announcement by Labor Party activists on November 10, that Natelashvili had been “poisoned with tear gas” on November 7, when riot police dispersed demonstrators, and was undergoing medical treatment at an undisclosed location.

“He has requested that the U.S. government provide asylum to his family and also said that President Saakashvili was persecuting him because of his intention to run for the presidency,” Nestan Kirtadze of the Labor Party said at a news conference in Tbilisi on November 10. She denied rumors that Natelashvili had fled to Russia and said he was in Georgia.

“Natelashvili is hiding somewhere in a cellar,” President Saakashvili said at a meeting with a group of leading businessmen, “and he is asking us from there: let me out of the cellar, do not arrest me. Our response is: we will not arrest you.”

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