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Sidelined Okruashvili Back into Play
/ 6 Nov.'07 / 02:15
Civil Georgia

Irakli Okruashvili, the ex-defense minister, made a surprise appearance and said in a late-night live interview with Imedi TV that he was forced to retract accusations against President Saakashvili while being in jail.

Ruling party officials have already described the Okruashvili’s interview with the Imedi TV as a business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili’s attempt to give a new boost to, as they put it, waning anti-governmental demonstrations.

Okruashvili, whose stunning accusations against President Saakashvili more than a month ago became a catalyst of the current protest rallies, spoke publicly for the first time after he was released on bail on October 9. He was released after he pleaded guilty to large-scale bribery through extortion and negligence while serving as minister and after retracting accusations against President Saakashvili that he was plotting to kill media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili.

But speaking from Munich on November 5 he said: “Human factors were used to break me down.” Although he did not elaborate further on the issue, he denied speculations that he had been drugged in order to elicit his confession.

“I want to say sorry to all those people whom I have disappointed by a testimony which I was forced to give when I was in jail,” he said. “All the facts I have said about Saakashvili are true. But I won’t be able to prove them in the current judiciary system of Georgia… But I will be able to confirm these accusations in any independent court in a week.”

In an attempt to back up his statement he showed bunch of papers, which he claimed was transcripts of taped phone conversations between various cabinet “minister, lawmakers and judges” conducted in 2005 and 2006.

“These phone conversations were taped by [the interior ministry’s] departments for constitutional security and special operations. I will send these transcripts to the Georgian newspapers,” Okruashvili said, but he did not specify what these transcripts were about.

He also said that while being in the police custody, several cabinet ministers and senior officials met with him – including defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili; prosecutor general, Zurab Adeishvili and chief of the prison system, Bacho Akhalaia – who were trying to convince him to quit the politics.

“That was the only thing they were demanding from me. They were intimidating me and also offering some lucrative proposals in exchange,” Okruashvili said.

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office Okruashvili was released after posting GEL 10 million. Okruashvili, however, said neither he, nor any of his friend and ally paid this sum. Large part of the GEL 10 million bail, he alleged, was paid by a businessman, Tamaz Nizharadze. The latter, according to Okruashvili, has interests in port of Poti and is defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili's associate.

Okruashvili then also said that he was “forcefully brought into airport” by officials from the law enforcement agencies and “forced into the plane.” “By the way it will be good if someone asks the French ambassador [in Georgia] in what circumstances the visa has been issued for me,” he added.

Okruashvili also spoke about the ongoing anti-governmental demonstrations in Tbilisi and called on protesters for, as he put it, “endurance.”

“I want to say sorry to thousands of protesters on the Rustaveli Avenue [outside the Parliament],” he said. “I must be right beside them now, but I am somewhere in Munich… The President offered us game of endurance… But Saakashvili should know that people have never before lost this game of endurance and people will win.”

Protesters outside the Parliament watched the Okruashvili’s interview on a screen which was installed on November 5.

He also indicated that the opposition should intensify efforts to give more momentum to the demonstrations by saying “resources should be strengthened.”

“I am consulting with the united opposition about how and in what forms it should happen,” Okruashvili said. “We should also understand that [the authorities] have too much to lose… So everything is expected from them including use of force.”

He also said that the opposition should keep unity, “because this was the Georgian people’s will.” He, however, also said that this unity was against the authorities and did not mean that those opposition parties now campaigning jointly would also run for elections on the joint ticket.
 
Okruashvili also denied the ruling party’s allegation that he engaged in the anti-governmental campaign jointly with business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili. “I had contacts with him time after time previously. I have not met with him after I was released and we have never planned any joint political activities,” he said.

“I was forced to become a political refugee because of the Saakashvili’s regime, but I will be back soon,” he said. “I have only one thing on my mind: how to make you [referring to President Saakashvili] leave the power and nothing else.”

Ruling party officials denounced Okruashvili’s statements and said it was an obvious attempt to gain new momentum to the anti-governmental demonstrations.

“It is clear that that the only reason behind Okruashvili’s show up was to boost the opposition… and to deliver Patarkatsishvili’s messages. All the rest that he said was absolutely unclear and incomprehensible and nonsense,” Givi Targamadze, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, told the Rustavi 2 TV.

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