I made up murder plot, says Georgian president's accuser

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The Independent Online

Georgia's former defence minister has retracted his accusations of a murder plot and corruption against the country's President. But opposition leaders said Irakly Okruashvili's statement had been made under duress.

Mr Okruashvili was arrested on 27 September, the day after he had made the allegations against Mikhail Saakashvili – allegations dismissed by the President as "unpardonable lies". Mr Okruashvili has been charged with extortion, money-laundering and abuse of power.

Nika Gvaramia, Georgia's deputy chief prosecutor, said yesterday that Mr Okruashvili had retracted his accusations and acknowledged he made them for political gains. "He said the allegations he made in the media didn't correspond to reality and only served one goal – getting political dividends," he said.

Mr Gvaramia also said Mr Okruashvili had pleaded guilty to charges of extortion and failure to properly perform his duties.

Georgian television stations broadcast footage of Mr Okruashvili's questioning in which he retracted his accusations. "That doesn't correspond to reality," he said when an investigator asked him about his claim that, in 2005, Mr Saakashvili tried to encourage him to kill Badri Patarkatsishvili, a prominent businessman. A court in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, freed Mr Okruashvili on $6m (£3m) bail. Mr Gvaramia said he would remain in custody until he produces the money.

Opposition leaders said Mr Okruashvili had been forced into making his statement. "Let's raise the money and free the person who spoke the truth but couldn't stand torture," said Koba Davitashvili, the leader of the People's Party.

"He clearly gave the testimony under duress," said Kakha Kukhava, of the Democratic Front. He said the opposition would hold a rally on 2 November to push for early parliamentary elections and abolition of the position of President.

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