Some opposition politicians have alleged that testimony by ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, wherein he pleads guilty to extortion and retracts accusations levelled earlier against President Saakashvili, was given under pressure.
“I recall confessions made by dissidents in the Soviet times,” Davit Zurabishvili, an opposition lawmaker, said on October 8.
“Some people can resist pressure exerted on them, but others can not and there is no tragedy in this,” Zviad Dzidziguri, a lawmaker from the Conservative Party, said.
Eka Beselia, Okruashvili's lawyer and a member of Okruashvili’s newly set up party, Movement for United Georgia, said she was not present during the interrogation of Okruashvili. She said that the Prosecutor’s Office itself had appointed a new lawyer for Okruashvili in her place.
“I have a justified suspicion that Okruashvili made this confession under pressure from the prosecutors,” Beselia said. “The Prosecutor’s Office has no right to appoint a lawyer. We have a written statement attesting that Okruashvili only trusts me as his lawyer.”
Politicians from the ruling party, however, have rejected the allegations as absolutely groundless.
“I do not think that Irakli Okruashvili is the kind of person who would yield to any form of pressure,” Levan Bezhashvili, a lawmaker from the National Movement, said. “Essentially, the arguments presented by the investigators were sufficient.”
“His [Okruashvili’s] testimony came as a surprise,” Nino Kalandadze, a lawmaker from the ruling party, said. “Heroes do not look like this.”
Nino Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson, hailed the General Prosecutor’s Office for debunking the “groundless accusations” levelled by Okruashvili against the president.
“The authorities took the correct step in launching a probe into all those groundless accusations which had been levelled [by Okruashvili],” Burjanadze said. “Investigators asked very specific questions and have received answers [from Okruashvili]. It was important that Irakli Okruashvili was given this opportunity. It is also an important decision that after paying bail Okruashvili will be released and will be able to make the same statements outside of jail.”
Okruashvili's arrest on September 27 prompted ten opposition parties to launch a campaign to demand his release, with many describing him as “a political prisoner”. Part of their platform also involved calls for early parliamentary election in April, instead of late 2008. A lawmaker from the opposition Conservative Party, Kakha Kukava, said the latest turn of events did not mean an end to the campaign.
“The opposition’s efforts aimed at holding a mass protest rally on November 2 and early parliamentary elections will continue,” he said. “Our resistance will continue and the goals and demands will remain unchanged. The fact that such pressure has been applied to a political prisoner confirms once again that the authorities act contrary to the freedom and dignity of the population. Therefore, they should be replaced.”