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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Accused of Plotting Murder

ReutersIrakli Okruashvili's new party signing up members in Tbilisi on Wednesday.
Georgia's former defense minister claimed on Wednesday that President Mikheil Saakashvili had instructed him to kill a prominent businessman and that former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who was found dead in a friend's Tbilisi apartment in 2005, died somewhere else.

There was no immediate reaction from Saakashvili, was to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, but a top official from his party called the accusations "nonsense."

Irakli Okruashvili, who was dismissed as defense minister last year, said in an overnight television interview that Saakashvili tried to encourage him to kill Badri Patarkatsishvili, a prominent Georgian businessman, in 2005.

"He presented me with a detailed plan for Badri Patarkatsishvili's liquidation," Okruashvili told Georgia's Rustavi 2 television. "I immediately realized that it was a trap: If this order was fulfilled, they would later kill me as well."

Okruashvili said he had informed U.S. officials about the plan and that they discouraged Saakashvili from going through with it.

"After Okruashvili's statement, I can save on bodyguards. Now, hardly anyone will attempt to do anything to me," Patarkatsishvili said in London, Interfax reported.

Okruashvili also accused Saakashvili of ordering an attack on an opposition deputy and said the president's family was engaged in rampant corruption.

Georgy Bokeriya, a top official with Saakashvili's United National Movement party, dismissed Okruashvili's comments, saying the former defense minister was "out of his mind."

Okruashvili served as prosecutor general and then defense minister, before his demotion to economic development minister in November. He left the government a week after the announcement to return to the private sector.

Irakli Okruashvili
Okruashvili said he decided to go into opposition and set up the For United Georgia party after Saakashvili failed on promises to bring the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under Tblisi's control.

In comments made Tuesday, Okruashvili said the Georgian side had drawn up a plan that was approved by Saakashvili, for a "special operation" to take the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali by the spring of 2006, Georgia's Imedi television channel said, Interfax reported.

In other comments Tuesday, Okruashvili also said Zhvania, the former prime minister who was found dead Feb. 3, 2005, did not die in the apartment of a friend, as the official version of his death stipulated.

Zhvania had died at a different location, and his body was then secretly moved, Okruashvili said, Interfax reported. He did not elaborate.

Georgian authorities maintain that Zhvania died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Zhvania's family demanded a new investigation into his death.

Okruashvili may be facing some legal problems of his own, as prosecutors allege he played a key role in forcing a Georgian businessman to sell his shares in local mobile phone network Geocell, Kommersant reported Wednesday.

Saakashvili's press secretary Dmitry Kitoshvili was charged with forcing the sale at a steep discount last year, and prosecutors also suspect Okruashvili of involvement in the crime.