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The Tbilisi City Court said on Wednesday it has ruled
The Tbilisi City Court said on Wednesday it has ruled to arrest opposition leader Irakly Okruashvili and put him on a wanted list, as prosecutors said he cannot be contacted for questioning.

"The court upheld a request from the Prosecutor General's Office to cancel bail as a measure to secure the ex-defense minister's presence and issue an arrest warrant for him," the court said. "Prosecutors said Okruashvili cannot be contacted."

Some commentators said the move is designed to keep the charismatic opposition leader, formerly a key ally of the president, away from Georgia.

Okruashvili left the country after being released from prison on a $6 million bail. He was charged with blackmail, money laundering and abuse of office days after he publicly accused Mikheil Saakashvili of ordering the murders of political opponents and plotting to forcibly seize the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

His comments sparked a wave of anti-president sentiment in the Caucasus state. After six days of mass protests in Tbilisi brought to an end by riot police last Wednesday, Saakashvili declared a state of emergency and early presidential polls.

Okruashvili's lawyer, Yekaterina Beselia, said she would appeal the ruling as ungrounded. She said a subpoena was only delivered to Okruashvili, who is currently in Munich, an hour before he was to be questioned in Tbilisi on November 14. She also said the unjustifiably high bail was a strong enough guarantee of his return.

IMEDI TV LICENSE SUSPENSION

Another court in Tbilisi said on Wednesday it had ruled to arrest the property and freeze the broadcasting license of the independent Imedi TV company, established by billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who plans to challenge Saakashvili in the early January 5 polls.

Prosecutors said the channel broadcast what they called the tycoon's appeals for forcible regime change in Georgia on November 7, when tens of thousands of opposition supporters flocked to central Tbilisi.

Authorities said earlier on Wednesday that the nationwide state of emergency, which includes a ban on independent TV broadcasting, could be dropped on Friday.

The opposition, which has complained of restricted access to media, said the case against Imedi was designed to harm their campaign, and threatened fresh protests.

Saakashvili announced the early elections and promised to lift a 15-day state of emergency ahead of time following harsh Western criticism of his handling of the crisis, the worst to hit the small ex-Soviet state since the 2003 protests that brought him to power.

DIALOGUE

A third round of talks between the opposition and the parliamentary majority finished on Wednesday, with Mamuka Katsitadze, a moderate opposition lawmaker, reporting some progress on amendments to the electoral system.

The final round of discussions will take place on Thursday ahead of an extraordinary parliamentary session on the issue, as well to discuss a date for parliamentary elections.

The opposition has backed the president's policy of integrating the ex-Soviet state into Europe and NATO, but criticized what it called his increasingly totalitarian tendencies and failure to ensure better living standards.


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