Source AP ©

Irakly Okruashvili free on bail

After taking back accusations against the nation's president a former Georgian defense minister was freed on bail, a top prosecutor said Monday.

Irakly Okruashvili was arrested Sept. 27, the day after he accused President Mikhail Saakashvili of a murder plot and corruption - allegations Saakashvili dismissed as "unpardonable lies." Okruashvili was charged with extortion, money-laundering and abuse of power.

On Monday, Nika Gvaramia, Georgia's deputy chief prosecutor, said that Okruashvili had retracted his accusations and acknowledged he made them for political reasons.

"He said that the allegations he made in the media didn't correspond to reality and only served one goal - getting political dividends," Gvaramia said.

Gvaramia also said in televised comments that Okruashvili had pleaded guilty to charges of extortion and sloppiness.

A court in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has ruled to free Okruashvili on bail equivalent to US$6 million, Gvaramia said. He added that Okruashvili would remain in custody until he produces the money.

Okruashvili was a longtime Saakashvili ally who served as his defense minister until late last year. His accusations and arrest have thrown the ex-Soviet nation into the worst political turmoil since Saakashvili was propelled to power in the 2003 mass uprising known as the Rose Revolution.

Saakashvili has sought to decrease the influence of neighboring Russia, which dominated Georgia for most of the past two centuries, pushing his nation to seek membership in NATO and the European Union - a policy that put him on a collision course with Moscow.

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