On August 2 criminal police in the Shida Kartli region of Georgia detained Revaz Okruashvili, editor of the newspaper "People's Newspaper" alleging the illegal possession and sale of narcotics. He was later sentenced by the court to three months of preliminary detention. The detention may trigger the first serious political crisis for the new administration, as human rights activists allege fabrication of evidence and speak about political persecution of Okruashvili from the governor of Shida Kartli - Mikheil Kareli. Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili threw his weight behind the detention on August 3, stating that he personally ordered the operation.
The campaign to release the arrested editor is led by the influential Liberty Institute. This activist group had strongly criticized Eduard Shevardnadze’s government for human rights abuses and is considered one of the driving forces behind the November 2003 "Rose Revolution" that brought Saakashvili to power. The Liberty Institute convened a press-conference on August 3, announcing that "criminal practices of fabrication of evidence, including planting of the narcotics and weapons, continues at the Interior Ministry."
The family of the detainee argues that Kvemo Kartli governor Mikheil Kareli, as well as the police chiefs of Shida Kartli, were alarmed by publications in "People's Newspaper" that alleged the region's administration’s continued participation in illegal trade and smuggling via South Ossetia - a secessionist Georgian region bordering Shida Kartli. The newspaper also alleged that the governor deserted from military service. According to Revaz Okruashvili's wife, Badri Nanitashvili, formerly the owner of the local TV company close to the governor and currently an MP, has threatened to "bring up the narcotics charges" against her if the newspaper did not stop publishing compromising material against the governor. One of the leaders of Liberty Institute, Sozar Subeliani, tipped by President Saakashvili to become the Public Defender of Georgia, says pressure was placed on the newspaper. "The last issue of the newspaper was practically impounded [by the local authorities], it never went into circulation" Subeliani says.
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