[JURIST] Prosecutors in the Georgian Republic [JURIST news archive] charged media and financial tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili [Reuters backgrounder] Thursday with conspiracy to overthrow the Georgian government. Patarkatsishvili allegedly offered a $100 million bribe to a senior police official if he would help him overthrow the government and kidnap the Georgian interior minister. Patarkatsishvili denied the charges and remains in self-imposed exile in Britain and Israel. In November 2007, police shut down the independent television station Imedi [media website, in English], which was co-owned by Patarkatsishvili and had aired opposition statements and showed footage of police violence during anti-government protests [JURIST report].
Patarkatsishvili was a political rival [VOA report] of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili [official website] in the January 5 elections in which Saakashvili won re-election with a landslide victory. In November 2007, Saakashvili ended a national state of emergency [JURIST report] which banned demonstrations and public calls for violence or government overthrow. Saakashvili has blamed [speech] Russian spy agencies for instigating protests in the capital city of Tbilisi, though the Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed those claims [statement]. In August 2007, a Georgian court sentenced 12 opposition activists [JURIST report] to prison terms of up to eight-and-a-half years for participating in a coup plot that Saakashvili alleged was backed by Russia. Saakashvili has allied himself closely with the US and NATO since taking office in 2004, and Georgian authorities alleged that the convicted opposition activists had been supported by the Russian security services. BBC News has more.