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Pro-President Georgians Protest Ex-Government Officials’ Arrests

Protesters from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement rallied outside a police station in the capital, condemning the arrest of four former government members for alleged corruption.

The demonstrators carried posters and chanted slogans outside the building in Tbilisi, where Nika Gvaramia, director general of Rustavi 2 TV and a government member until late 2009, is being held, Irma Nadirashvili, a UNM member, said by phone. Nino Giorgobiani, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, declined to comment on how many people attended the rally.

Saakashvili’s party was unexpectedly defeated by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition in Oct. 1 elections. Several former government officials have since been detained, including Bacho Akhalaia, a former Interior and Defense Minister, drawing criticism from the European Union.

“Gvaramia’s arrest has nothing to do with his work at Rustavi 2 station,” Corrections and Legal Assistance Minister, Sozar Subari told reporters in Tbilisi today. “He’s suspected of wrongdoing and corrupt deals before he joined the station, therefore this needs to be investigated.”

Gvaramia considers his arrest “politically motivated” to prevent his work at the TV station, his lawyer Mamuka Chabashvili said by phone.

Former Energy and Finance Minister Alexander Khetaguri was also detained, as was Devi Kandelaki, chief executive officer of Telasi, an electricity distributor company in Tbilisi, owned 75% by Russia’s state-controlled power producer and exporter, OAO Inter RAO UES.

Khetaguri denies all charges, his lawyer Davit Khazhalia told reporters in Tbilisi today. Kandelaki’s lawyer wasn’t available for comment. The fourth person arrested was Kakha Damenia, a former Economy Ministry official.

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