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Germany hands Okruashvili over to France

By Ana Datiashvili
Friday, January 11
Former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, who was arrested at the end of November in Berlin at the request of the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office, was transferred to France on January 9, where he remains in custody.

He has been awaiting a German court decision on extradition to Georgia, and is seeking political asylum, claiming he would face political persecution if he returns home.

German Interior Ministry representative Stefan Kaller told reporters Okruashvili had been handed over to French authorities in accordance with the Dublin Convention, which specifies that the state which issued the visa to an asylum seeker must review the asylum application.

“As Okruashvili was granted a Shengen visa by the French embassy, he does not have the right to request political asylum from any European country except France, so that’s why we transferred him to France,” the news agency ITAR-TASS quoted Kaller as saying.

Okruashvili’s lawyer Eka Beselia told journalists that his legal team hopes to prove he would face political persecution if he is extradited to Georgia.

“We are trying to prove that the motivation of Okruashvili’s detention was political,” she said on January 9, according to the news agency ITAR-TASS.

In an interview printed on January 4 in the German news magazine Spiegel, Okruashvili claimed that extradition would constitute a “death sentence” for him.

“Saakashvili would do everything within his power to destroy me, first as a politician and then as a person. All government authorities, including the police, the military and the courts, are controlled by those in power,” he told Spiegel.

Okruashvili was first arrested in Georgia on September 27—two days after he launched a political opposition party—and charged with corruption charges stemming from his time as defense minister, before being released on bail.

He flew to Germany on November 1, the day before a planned mass anti-government protest. The government claimed he was allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment, whereas he maintains he was coerced into leaving by authorities.