9 opposition party members arrested in Georgia for arms possession
Photo: www.geotimes.ge

9 opposition party members arrested in Georgia for arms possession

24 Mar, 12:29 PM

Georgia arrested nine opposition party members on Monday, claiming that they had weapons that could be put to use in political protests next month, expected to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Nino Burjanadze, leader of the opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, and a former ally of Saakashvili, said the charges were fabricated and part of a "campaign of terror" by the US-backed government to discredit its critics, Washington Post reported.

But an Interior Ministry spokesman, Shota Utiashvili, said the arrests were the result of a routine undercover investigation into illegal arms dealing. He denied that police had targeted the opposition and said investigators were unaware of the political views of the suspects before they were detained.

"These arrests have no political connotations at all. All we are doing is trying to prevent violence," Utiashvili said, adding that the government decided to make a statement only after the case had become "extremely politicized" by the opposition. Ten people were arrested, he said, including one who was not a party member.

The arrests, some of which took place at the offices of Burjanadze's party, came just over two weeks prior to Georgia's main opposition parties plan to create mass demonstrations, calling on Saakashvili to resign.

The opposition has accused Saakashvili of monopolizing power and betraying the democratic ideals of the Rose Revolution, the 2003 street protests that swept him into office. A favorite of the Bush administration, the US-educated lawyer, has come under increased pressure since Georgia's defeat in a war with Russia in August over two breakaway territories.

The Interior Ministry played about 20 minutes of video for reporters, that supposedly show the individuals arrested for buying and selling automatic rifles. It is not clear from the footage how the suspects planned to use the guns, and Burjanadze said the film should be examined for possible falsification.

Tags: Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili

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