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Georgia's former defense minister, under probe on suspicion of numerous offences after coming out in opposition to the country's president, is quitting politics
Georgia's former defense minister, under probe on suspicion of numerous offences after coming out in opposition to the country's president, is quitting politics, an opposition leader said on Thursday. Irakly Okruashvili accused President Mikheil Saakashvili in late September of ordering the murder of his political opponents. He was arrested and later released on $6 million bail after backing down on the accusation in a televised interview with prosecutors. "Under the circumstances, Irakly Okruashvili will quit politics," said Konstantin Guntsadze of the opposition movement For United Georgia founded by the ex-minister. "As his friends we understand him, and do not blame him." Guntsidze and other party members visited Okruashvili at his apartment on Wednesday to learn his plans for further political activities, as well as to find out about his recent interrogation by police. They made no statements after the visit, saying only that the ex-minister was in a complex physical and moral state. Okruashvili's lawyers, who were not allowed to visit the ex-defense minister in jail, later said their client's confession could have been forced. Represented by a government-appointed lawyer, Okruashvili said he had voiced accusations against Saakashvili to boost his own political capital. The scandal cast a shadow on the former-soviet Caucasus state as it strives to join NATO and the European Union. Guntidze said their party and other opposition forces would stage a rally outside parliament on November 2, which would be "an appropriate response to the immoral government." Opposition in Georgia has demanded early parliamentary elections for next spring. Suspicions of extortion, money laundering, abuse of office and negligence voiced against Okruashvili before his arrest prompted an opposition rally with demands for President Saakashvili's resignation. Okruashvili was known for his flagrant statements, once promising to see in the New Year in the breakaway province of South Ossetia. He was dismissed as defense minister last November.
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