Georgian ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili sentenced to 5 years in prison
A Tbilisi city court has sentenced former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili to five years in prison for his involvement in the case of the June 20 riots.
The opposition believes that the authorities violated the March 8 agreement on the electoral scheme, under which all political prisoners were to have been released.
The authorities, in turn, argue that there are no political prisoners in Georgia.
The former defense minister was arrested on July 25.
The prosecutor’s office charged him with organizing and participating in group violence during a protest on June 20 near the parliament building.
The Tbilisi city court partially acquitted the ex-minister, finding him guilty only of participating in the above-mentioned actions. Okruashvili pleaded not guilty and intends to appeal the verdict to the court of appeal.
The opposition insists on the immediate cessation of cases and the release of Irakli Okruashvili, Gigi Ugulava, Besik Tamliani and Giorgi Rurua. Tamliani, who also stands accused in the June 20 case, was released from pre-trial detention on March 23, but the case against him was not closed.
The three others remain in custody, although Gigi Ugulava appealed to the Georgian president for clemency.
“Either Irakli Okruashvili will be released and a political agreement between the government and the opposition will be implemented, or normalization will not come and the decision of the authorities will cause serious consequences for Bidzina Ivanishvili and his entourage,” said Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of the opposition European Georgia party.
Bokeria says that while Okruashvili, Rurua and Ugulava are behind bars, the agreement reached between the authorities and the opposition cannot be considered fulfilled.
A similar position was taken by another opposition force, the United National Movement.
“In a case cooked up against Okruashvili, Ivanishvili’s authorities once again showed their true face – they do not care about anything and they have taken advantage of the difficult situation in the country,” one of the party’s leaders, Khatia Dekanoidze, wrote on Facebook.
In turn, the authorities say that the opposition is ‘lying as usual’, that there are no political prisoners in Georgia, and therefore the conditions of the Memorandum of March 8 have not been violated.
The prosecutor’s office also accuses Okruashvili of abusing his official powers of being the Minister of the Interior in 2004. He was charged in the case of Buta (Amiran) Robakidze. The court has not yet made a decision.
Transparency International – Georgia included Okruashvili on the list of nine individuals for whom the government uses justice to settle political accounts.
“It is noteworthy that the prosecution was brought forward a few days before the expiration of the 15-year term of the crime. Okruashvili’s criminal prosecution was preceded by his scandalous statements against the authorities,” the organization said in a statement.
According to Irakli Okruashvili, in 2014-2016 he spent a lot of time at the prosecutor’s office, where at the request of Bidzina Ivanishvili, he testified in the cases of Vano Merabishvili, Zurab Adeishvili and Mikheil Saakashvili.