TBILISI, DFWatch – Police yesterday evening arrested the regional leader of the opposition Free Democrats party in the town of Lanchkhuti, western Georgia.

Spokespersons for the party say the police did not allow Elguja Chkhaidze access to a lawyer after his arrest, violating his right to defense.

During the search of his home the police found an automatic weapon.

According to the Free Democrats, Chkhaidze spent the whole night at the regional police office.

Party leader Irakli Alasania today called the arrest ‘political persecution’ and connects it to the sudden move into politics by Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Alasania was speaking at a press conference in Lanchkhuti.

The Free Democrats is one of four parties supported by Mr Ivanishvili.

“Chkhaidze is illegally detained and the weapon they found was deliberately put [there],” Alasania says, adding that also Chkhaidze’s family is victim of political persecution. Recently his son was arrested for alleged drug use, he says.