Tbilisi City Court found Irakli Okruashvili, the ex-defense minister, guilty of “large-scale extortion” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison in absentia on March 28.
Eka Beselia, Okruashvili's lawyer, said the trial in itself was illegal because a court in Paris has yet to consider Okruashvili’s extradition case, due on April 16. As a result, she boycotted the trial and the ex-defense minister was defended by a state-appointed attorney.
Okruashvili said in a televised interview on March 20 that the authorities were in a hurry to sentence him in absentia to prevent him from running in the May 21 parliamentary elections.
Okruashvili was found guilty of extorting 2.6% of shares in mobile operator company Geocell from ex-lawmaker and businessman Jemal Svanidze, in October 2006. Okruashvili’s alleged accomplice, Dimitri Kitoshvili, ex-spokesman of President Saakashvili and at the time head of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) was given a five-year suspended sentence and fined GEL 10,000.