Irakli Okruashvili (Georgian: ირაკლი ოქრუაშვილი) (born 6 November 1973) is a Georgian politician who had served on various important posts in the Government of Georgia under President Mikheil Saakashvili, including being the Minister of Defense from December 2004 until being dismissed in November 2006.
|Minister of Defense of Georgia|
December 2004 – 10 November 2006
|Succeeded by||Davit Kezerashvili|
|Prosecutor General of Georgia|
November 2003 – May 2004
|Minister of the Interior of Georgia|
May 2004 – December 2004
|Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development|
10 November 2006 – 17 November 2006
|Born||6 November 1973|
Tskhinvali, South Ossetian AO, Georgian SSR, USSR
In September 2007, Okruashvili staged a scandalous comeback to Georgian politics, openly confronting Mikheil Saakashvili and creating the opposition party Movement for United Georgia. On September 27, 2007, Okruashvili was briefly arrested at his party headquarters on the charges of corruption, money laundering, and abuse of office. In 2007 he left Georgia and was granted political asylum in France. He was sentenced to 11-year prison term in Georgia in absentia in March 2008. In October 2010, he, remaining in France, joined Sozar Subari, Levan Gachechiladze and Erosi Kitsmarishvili in the new Georgian Party.
Okruashvili served as the Deputy Minister of Justice from 2000 to 2001. He joined Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement and was elected as a member of Tbilisi Assembly (Sakrebulo) in 2002. After the Rose Revolution, Okruashvili was appointed the Person Authorized (governor) of the President of Georgia in Shida Kartli (to which breakaway South Ossetia was a de jure part) in November 2003 and established strong anti-corruption and anti-smuggling measures in the region.
He served as the Prosecutor General from January 2004 until Saakashvili appointed him Interior Minister in June 2004 and moved him to the post of Defence Minister in December 2004. During his tenure as defence minister, Okruashvili was known for advocating military actions against the separatists in South Ossetia.
Okruashvili said on May 1, 2006, that he would resign if Georgia failed to restore control over breakaway South Ossetian by January 1, 2007.
On November 10, 2006 Saakashvili appointed him Minister for Economic Development. Davit Kezerashvili became the Minister of Defence. Okruashvili resigned as Minister for Economic Development on 17 November 2006.
On September 25, 2007, he announced the formation of the new opposition Movement for United Georgia and unleashed criticism on President Saakashvili, accusing him of corruption, incompetency and human rights violations. He also raised new concerns around Zurab Zhvania's death, challenging the official investigation point of view and personally accused the Georgian president in planning the murder of businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili.
Speculations about Okruashvili's planned party had been circulating for a long time already and many commentators expected, what they called, "a war of compromising materials" in case of Okruashvili's political comeback. The presentation was preceded by the controversies over financial irregularities surrounding the party's new office and the arrest of Mikheil Kareli, Orkuashvili's close associate and governor of Shida Kartli, on the charges of corruption.
On September 27, 2007, Okruashvili was detained on charges of extortion, money laundering, and abuse of office while Georgia's defense minister. On September 28, 2007, several opposition parties organized a peaceful mass rally in Okruashvili's support at the Parliament of Georgia.
On October 8, 2007, in a video taped confession released by the General Prosecutor's Office, Okruashvili pleaded guilty to large-scale bribery through extortion and negligence while serving as minister and retracted his accusations against the president, winning release on bail of 10 million Georgian lari. He also said that his earlier accusations levelled against Saakashvili were not true and were aimed at gaining political dividends for himself and Badri Patarkatsishvili and at discrediting the President of Georgia. Some opposition leaders said Okruashvili's statement had been made under duress. Okruashvili declared, however, that he had decided to cooperate with the investigation in order to "mitigate [his] situation".
Expulsion from GeorgiaEdit
After he pleaded guilty, Okruashvili was released. Okruashvili left Georgia around November 1, 2007. He subsequently said he was forced into exile; the government said he had asked to leave because of medical issues.
On November 5, 2007, Okruashvili made a surprise appearance on Imedi TV from Munich, claiming that he had been forced to retract accusations against President Saakashvili while being in jail. A Georgian prosecuting officer, however, rejected Okruashvili's allegations, while the senior members of the Parliament of Georgia for the ruling party described him "an instrument in the hands of Patarkatsishvili", the owner of Imedi TV, who financed opposition rallies against the Georgian government.
On November 14, 2007, following a Prosecutor's Office request, a court in Tbilisi ruled that Okruashvili be returned to police custody pending investigation. In December 2007, he was arrested in Germany at the request of Georgia, but was later transferred to France, where a court ruled that he be freed on bail with Georgia's extradition request to be examined on April 16, 2008. In the meantime, a Georgian court found him guilty of "large-scale extortion" and sentenced him to 11 years in prison in absentia on March 28, 2008. On April 23, 2008 he was granted political asylum. The French courts ultimately rejected the extradition request as well.
In September 2008 Reuters reported Okruashvili had said that Saakashvili had long planned the 2008 South Ossetia war but had executed it poorly. While defence minister from 2004 to 2006 he and Saakashvili worked together on military plans to retake South Ossetia and Abkhazia, saying "Abkhazia was our strategic priority, but we drew up military plans in 2005 for taking both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well".
In October 2010, Okruashvili resigned his position in the Movement for United Georgia and shortly afterwards joined with the high-profile Georgia-based politicians — Sozar Subari, Levan Gachechiladze, and Erosi Kitsmarishvili to establish a new opposition party, the Georgian Party.
Return, imprisonment and releaseEdit
In a phone interview with the Tbilisi-based Maestro TV on May 22, 2011 he said "On May 25 I will be in Georgia together with my people. I will not talk about details. On May 25 we will manage to put an end to Saakashvili's regime with minimal losses. If there is a great public support, the losses will be minimal. So, everybody should acknowledge the responsibility, which should be assumed before our country."
After government change in Georgia Okruashvili, who faces multiple criminal charges in Georgia, returned from his French exile back to his home country. But despite a broad amnesty for political prisoners he was arrested upon arrival in the Tbilisi airport on November 20, 2012. Georgian Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, commented, that she shared the view that Okruashvili "was subjected to politically-motivated persecution by the [previous] authorities." "But it does not automatically mean that he is innocent in those criminal charges that he may face; it requires investigation," Tsulukiani told journalists. "There are number of criminal charges brought against him and the most recent one is related to setting up of illegal armed groups and that is related to the events of May, 2011 [during street protest rallies]. It requires further probe and I think that Okruashvili returned in order to prove his truth." Irakli Okruashvili was released from a courtroom on January 11. His release was made possible after Okruashvili was cleared of bribe-taking and extortion charges during a hearing in the Court of Appeals on January 10 and after the Tbilisi City Court accepted on January 11 a motion from prosecutors to release Okruashvili from custody on GEL 15,000 bail. A trial into negligence will be continued later in the Tbilisi City Court.
After his release Okruashvili gave an interview to Reuters to define the reasons of his return to Georgia after several years of residence in France under political asylum. Okruashvili sayd Georgia`s prosecution does not use him as "a golden witness" against President Saakashvili, as it was suggested in the Georgian media, and there was no big agreement with the new government about any issue. "My return (to the country) was just based on my decision and that`s it", Okruashvili said.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Irakli Okruashvili.|
- Okruashvili Arrested[permanent dead link]. Civil Georgia. 2007-09-27.
- New Opposition Party Launched. Civil Georgia. 2010-10-12
- Brian Rohan (September 14, 2008), Saakashvili "planned S. Ossetia invasion" : ex-minister, Reuters, retrieved 2008-09-14
- Georgian President Replaces Defense Minister Archived 2006-11-13 at the Wayback Machine VOA News
- Georgia: Former Defense Minister Submits "Shock" Resignation Archived 2008-08-13 at the Wayback Machine EurasiaNet
- Okruashvili Ups Ante on Former Allies Archived 2015-10-18 at the Wayback Machine - The Georgian Times
- Praise, Scorn For Accusations Against Georgia President
- Georgia's Ex-Minister Assails President - Forbes, Associated Press
- Okruashvili Breaks Silence by Lashing Out at Saakashvili[permanent dead link]. Civil Georgia. 2007-09-25.
- Former Defense Minister Detained In Georgia. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. September 27, 2007.
- Opposition Vows More Protests[permanent dead link]. Civil Georgia. 2007-09-28.
- Okruashvili May Be Freed on Bail after Pleading Guilty. Civil Georgia, 2007-10-08.
- Okruashvili Hopes Guilty Plea will 'Mitigate Situation'. Civil Georgia, 2007-10-08.
- Georgia: Firebrand Okruashvili's Televised Return Boosts Opposition
- Sidelined Okruashvili Back into Play. Civil Georgia. 2007-11-06.
- Ruling Party Targets Tycoon in Drive to Confront Opposition. Civil Georgia. 2007-11-06.
- Court Order for Okruashvili's Detention. Civil Georgia. 2007-11-14.
- Okruashvili Jailed for 11 Years in Absentia, Barred from Polls. Civil Georgia. 2008-03-28.
- France Grants Asylum to Okruashvili. Civil Georgia. April 23, 2008.
- France won't extradite former Georgian defence minister Archived 2010-09-10 at the Wayback Machine
- Okruashvili: 'Army's Choice Will Decide Georgia's Fate'
- Okruashvili Arrested After Return to Georgia Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 20 Nov. 2012.
- Court Releases Ex-Defense Minister Okruashvili Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 11 Jan. 2013.
- Reuters interviews Irakli Okruashvili, 16 Jan. 2013.
- Biography: Irakli Kobaevich Okruashvili, Kavkaz-uzel, January 14, 2013 (in Russian)