Georgia opposition leader released on bail

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TBILISI, Oct 9 (Reuters) A Georgian opposition leader was released from detention on bail, hours after he withdrew his claim that President Mikhail Saakashvili plotted a businessman's murder, Georgian television reported today.

Early morning news bulletins showed former defence minister Irakly Okruashvili being released from custody and entering his home in Tbilisi.

Okruashvili was freed on condition he put up a portion of his bail, which had been set at million, after he was arrested last week on charges of extortion and abuse of office.

A day earlier, Georgian television broadcast footage of an exhausted-looking Okruashvili saying he had invented his accusations against Saakashvili in order to discredit him.

The allegations -- which included corruption and discussing how to kill a tycoon -- and Okruashvili's subsequent arrest provoked the biggest anti-government protests since a 2003 bloodless revolution swept Saakashvili to power.

Okruashvili's lawyer and opposition politicians said the televised confession in police custody may have been made under duress.

Okruashvili was one of Saakashvili's inner circle until he was sacked last year. The pro-Western Georgian president said his accusations of criminal activity were ''all lies.'' The arrest spurred Georgia's splintered opposition to unite to fight next year's parliamentary and presidential elections, in what analysts say will be the biggest challenge yet to Saakashvili's administration.

Yesterday, Deputy Prosecutor-General Nika Gvaramia told a news briefing that Okruashvili would be released from prison pending his trial as soon as he posted bail.

Gvaramia said his prosecution, on charges including extortion and negligence, would continue.

REUTERS ARB RAI1111

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