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  Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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Georgian opposition leader Irakly Okruashvili asked for political asylum days before
Georgian opposition leader Irakly Okruashvili asked for political asylum days before he was arrested in Berlin at the request of the Georgian government, his lawyer said on Friday.

"He did not complete the process," Eka Beselia said in Tbilisi. "But he did begin it, which proves his persecution was politically motivated, and his arrest had no relation to the charges brought against him."

Okruashvili, Georgia's ex-defense minister, was arrested in Berlin on Wednesday after Georgian authorities requested his extradition via Interpol, saying he had failed to show up for a court trial last week.

Okruashvili, once a key ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, was arrested in Georgia in September on corruption charges. He was released soon after on $6 million bail and left for Germany.

Okruashvili's arrest, which came after he had publicly accused Saakashvili of ordering the murders of political opponents and of plotting to seize a breakaway region, sparked mass street protests in the capital, Tbilisi.

The protests were eventually broken up six days later by police using tear gas and rubber bullets, with Saakashvili subsequently announcing that early presidential elections and a referendum on the date for parliamentary polls and entry to NATO would be held on January 5.

Berlin prosecutors said on Wednesday that Georgian authorities had about 40 days to submit evidence supporting their request for Okruashvili's extradition.

Citing the European extradition convention, Okruashili's lawyer said Germany must under no circumstances extradite her client, as this would put his life in danger.

"Okruashvili's extradition is totally unacceptable as his life and health would be in danger in Georgia," Beselia said.

Echoing the statement, Okruashvili's supporters said on Friday they had met with the German ambassador to Georgia to warn him of the dangers facing the ex-minister if he returned to the country.


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