TBILISI, DFWatch–Police in Georgia Thursday detained the leader of an opposition party and charged him with participating in an attempted coup d’etat.
Irakli Okruashvili, who served as defense minister and prosecutor general during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency, was apprehended as he was on his way to meet with members of a new political party, Victorious Georgia, which he co-founded just a couple of weeks ago.
Members of Victorious Georgia as well as other opposition parties immediately attributed the arrest to political persecution.
Just a few minutes before his arrest, Okruashvili participated in a popular comedy show on the opposition TV channel Rustavi 2.
Later in the evening, the Ministry of Internal Affairs held a briefing where the ministry spokesman said that Okruashvili was arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by a judge and charged with ‘organizing, leading and participating in violent activities.’
“In the course of the investigation, it was established that during the violent storming of the parliament building [on June 20, 2019], Irakli Okruashvili, together with accompanying persons, called on the demonstrators and tried to violently invade the parliament. Irakli Okruashvili also participated in various organized acts of violence,” the MIA spokesman said.
(See the text of the MIA statement here.)
The events Okruashvili is charged with occurred on the night of June 20-21, when a visit by the Russian State Duma member Sergey Gavrilov triggered mass anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi. The events, which have been dubbed by the opposition as “Gavrilov Night”, led to hundreds of protesters and tens of police officers being injured.
The MIA spokesman said that apart from Okruashvili, four more persons were detained on Wednesday. All are being charged with violence against police officers. Thus the number of arrested for the Gavrilov Night events has reached 17.
The list also includes Nika Melia, the head of United National Movement’s political council, who was arrested on July 4, but later released on bail.
Several top politicians, including Gigi Ugulava, the head of European Georgia, and Irakli Okruashvili himself, have been questioned by the police or prosecutors.
Also on Wednesday, the MIA published a video which it said proves the guilt of Okruashvili and other detainees. “We plan to give the power back to the people, which has been stolen from them by Ivanishvili,” Okruashvili is heard in the video telling a journalist.
Nevertheless, many people among the Georgian opposition claim that Okruashvili’s arrest is more likely related to his recent statements in which he claims to be the legitimate owner of Rustavi 2, the country’s most popular opposition TV channel.
He claims that Kibar Khalvashi, who recently won a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights, was effectively his stooge and in reality the money paid for Rustavi 2 was his.
Okruashvili has also said that he was actually the key sponsor of the Rose Revolution, which has caused a wave of memes and ridicule by Georgians on social media.
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