French asylum for Georgian opposition leader

April 23rd, 2008 - 8:00 pm ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Tbilisi (Georgia), April 23 (RIA Novosti) France has granted political asylum to Georgian opposition leader Irakly Okruashvili, who has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in absentia, an opposition party spokesman said Wednesday. Former Georgian defence minister Okruashvili’s lawyer, Yekaterina Beseliya, confirmed the French asylum.

“The French interior ministry which has been considering Okruashvili’s asylum application gave its approval Tuesday,” Beseliya said. His French lawyers have also confirmed the report.

In March the Tbilisi city court has requested Okruashvili’s extradition. Last week a Paris court of appeals began hearings on the issue, but immediately postponed them until June 11.

The Georgian prosecutor general’s office says that it has no official information of the French decision to grant Okruashvili asylum.

Last September, Okruashvili accused his former ally President Mikheil Saakashvili of setting up corrupt commercial deals to benefit his family, plotting to seize Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia by force, and his alleged involvement in the assassination of the Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili in Britain.

Georgian prosecutors arrested Okruashvili and charged him with abuse of office, money laundering and corruption. He was consequently tried in absentia and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Okruashvili fled to Germany and was extradited to France last year where he was arrested in November on a request from Georgian authorities.

A Paris court released the former minister on bail on Jan 30.

Okruashvili said in early March that he would head the candidate list of the opposition Movement for United Georgia in Georgia’s parliamentary polls in May.
RIA Novosti

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