Former Georgian minister remains in German detention

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Court considers Georgian defence minister's extradition to France.

8th January 2008

Berlin (dpa) - A former Georgian defence minister and opposition politician will remain in German detention while a court considers his extradition to France, a justice department spokesman said.

Irakli Okruashvili, defence minister from December 2004 to November 2006, was detained in Berlin at the end of November after fleeing Georgia where he is wanted on corruption and abuse of power charges. His visa was issued in France.

The justice department spokesman said the Berlin court hearing the case was not expected to reach a decision soon, contradicting an interior ministry statement from Monday which said Okruashvili's extradition was expected in the next few days.

In an interview with a German news magazine at the end of December, the former defence minister said he would be killed if deported to his home country.

He also warned that President Mikhail Saakashvili "will use any legal or illegal means to remain in power," following the January 5 polls which saw him re-elected in the Caucasian country.

"I'm hoping for political asylum," Okruashvili told the news magazine “Der Spiegel”. "Deportation - that would mean my death," he said.

Okruashvili was arrested in Georgia in September on charges of corruption, money-laundering and abuse of power before being released on bail and fleeing to Germany.

He has accused Saakashvili of serious crimes, including human rights abuses, comparing him to Adolf Hitler for suppressing dissent.

In the interview with “Der Spiegel”, Okruashvili said that he had worked with Saakashvili for six years without problem, but the moment he went over to the opposition, allegations of corruption had been raised.


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