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Several Charges Dropped Against Ex-Defense Minister Okruashvili
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Jan.'13 / 17:24

Prosecutor’s Office said on Tuesday that it was dropping several criminal charges from ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, including the one for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia in 2008.

Okruashvili, who left Georgia in late 2007 and who faced multiple criminal charges in Georgia, was arrested upon arrival in the Tbilisi airport in November 2012.

Okruashvili, who was one of the most influential government members and President Saakashvili’s close ally before quitting the cabinet in November 2006, was arrested just two days after he leveled serious allegations against President Saakashvili and announced about setting up of an opposition party in late September, 2007.

At that time he was charged with large scale bribery-taking and extortion. Less than two weeks after he was arrested, Okruashvili pleaded guilty, retracted his allegations leveled against Saakashvili and was released on bail; he then left the country in what his supporters said was expulsion by the authorities.

In March, 2008 court in Georgia found Okruashvili guilty of “large-scale extortion” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison in absentia; a month later Okruashvili was granted asylum in France.

The extortion and bribery case, which involved alleged seizure of 2.6% shares in mobile operator company Geocell from ex-lawmaker and businessman Jemal Svanidze in 2006, is currently heard in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.

This case for which lower court sentenced Okruashvili to 11 years in jail in absentia in 2008, was largely built on a testimony of ex-spokesman for the President and former head of the Georgian National Communications Commission, Dimitri Kitoshvili, who testified against Okruashvili; at the time Kitoshvili was given a five-year suspended sentence into the same case. But last month Kitoshvili retracted his testimony against Okruashvili and told the Court of Appeals that he was coerced into testifying against ex-defense minister.

Prosecutors plan to tell the Appeals Court during a hearing on January 10 that they are dropping charges, which actually means that Okruashvili will be acquitted in to this case of bribery and extortion.

The Prosecutor’s Office also said on Tuesday that it was dropping separate charges against Okruashvili related to several counts of exceeding official powers and money laundering while he was serving as Defense Minister from late 2004 till November, 2006. The Prosecutor’s Office said there were no evidence to prove charges incriminated to Okruashvili.

Okruashvili now faces two other charges – one is related to alleged negligence while serving as Defense Minister and another one related to alleged armed group; the latter charge was filed by the previous authorities against Okruashvili in spring, 2011 amid street protest rallies. The Prosecutor’s Office is now considering whether to pursue or to drop these two charges against Okruashvili.

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