Georgia opposition leader to appeal in Euro court

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TBILISI, Oct 2 (Reuters) A Georgian opposition leader arrested last week on money laundering charges will appeal against his detention to the European Court of Human Rights, his lawyer said today.

Irakly Okruashvili was arrested on Thursday, just two days after he announced that he was setting up an opposition party and accused Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, a former ally, of corruption and plotting murder.

Saakashvili, who has built a reputation as a reforming leader who wants to take his small nation into the European Union, has called the allegations lies and defended the arrest of Okruashvili.

Lawyer Eka Beselia, who is also a member of Okruashvili's party, said his arrest was political and illegal.

''We have decided to send a case to the European Court of Human Rights,'' Beselia told Reuters. ''It will be a case against the Georgian government concerning Irakly Okruashvili's illegal arrest.'' Beselia argues the arrest violates detention laws and constitutes a politically-motivated action.

Saakashvili sacked Okruashvili as defence minister last November after he attacked Russia for propping up the separatist regions of South Ossetia nd Abkhazia and lobbied for tougher action to re-establish Tbilisi's control there.

The day after Okruashvili's arrest up to 15,000 people protested in central Tbilisi, the biggest public rally in Georgia since 2003.

Georgia's fractured opposition parties have also decided to unite and protest around the country. Analysts have said the demonstrations have the potential to pose a major challenge to Saakashvili's authority.

REUTERS ARB BD1432

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