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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
'Coup plotters' held in Georgia
A policeman escorts Temur Zhorzholiani, leader of the Conservative Monarchist Party in Tbilisi
Some 450 police officers took part in the morning raids
Nearly 30 people have been arrested in Georgia on suspicion of plotting a coup against the government, officials say.

They say those detained are supporters of Igor Giorgadze - the fugitive former head of the state security service.

Lawyers for those arrested deny the coup accusations, saying the arrests amount to political persecution.

Mr Giorgadze fled Georgia after being accused of trying to assassinate then President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995 - a charge he denies.

Some 450 police officers took part in the morning raids on houses and offices across Georgia, the BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi reports.

"They will be charged under Article 315 of the Georgian criminal code - plotting against the state and overthrowing the government," Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told reporters.

Among those detained are officials of two opposition parties - the pro-Russian Justice Party and the Conservative Monarchists.

Tensions with Russia

The Justice Party was founded by Mr Giorgadze in exile.

Mr Giorgadze remains a wanted man in Georgia, but has appeared on television in Russia, our correspondent says.

Tbilisi says it will demand an explanation from Moscow about where the funding for the Justice Party comes from.

The raids come amid growing tensions between the two countries.

Georgia accuses Moscow of backing separatists in Georgia's breakaway regions, while Russia has banned the import of certain Georgian goods.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Georgia
30 Jul 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Georgia
04 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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