[QODLink]
Europe
Georgia holds opposition members
Police accuse 10 people of illegally buying weapons as opposition plans protests
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2009 21:26 GMT
Burdzhanadze, whose husband was among those arrested, is a former ally of the president [AFP]

Police in Georgia have arrested 10 people, including members of the opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, on suspicion of illegally buying automatic weapons.

Nino Burdzhanadze, the opposition party leader, condemned the arrests on Monday as a "campaign of terror". 

The husband of the former parliamentary speaker was among the people detained in an early morning raid on the home of Zurab Avalian, the party's chairman in the Ajara region.

After announcing the arrests, police showed journalists around 20 minutes of video they said was secretly filmed of the suspects buying weapons, which included automatic rifles.

"This operation was not aimed against any political party or the demonstration," Shota Utiashvili, the interior ministry spokesman, said.

"We are not going to restrict demonstrations. What we are going to do is make sure that nobody gets shot and that we don't end up in large-scale violence."

President under pressure

The opposition has stepped up pressure on Mikheil Saakashvili, the president, since Georgia's defeat by Russia in a five-day war last August, and plans a series of protests beginning on April 9 to demand his resignation.

"The government
of Georgia has resorted to illegal and deplorable methods to fight its political opponents"

Democratic Movement-United Georgia statement

The opposition accused police of planting the weapons at the homes of some of the activists so they could be arrested.

"The government of Georgia has resorted to illegal and deplorable methods to fight its political opponents," the party said in a statement.

"The police regime has launched a full-scale attack against the Democratic Movement-United Georgia."

In recent weeks, Georgian officials have warned that Moscow could try to overthrow the government from within, claims that the opposition says are part of a smear campaign to discredit it.

Gela Bezhuashvili, the head of the Georgian intelligence services, told parliament on Friday that Russia was planning "to remove the Georgian authorities through internal disorder and destabilisation".

Burdzhanadze is a former ally of Saakashvili, but then split with the president in early 2008, criticising his record on democracy.
   
Her defection came months after police used tear gas and water cannon to crush anti-government protests in the capital, Tbilisi, in November 2007 and shut down an opposition television station.
   
The government at the time said the opposition was trying to stage a coup.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Venezuela's president lacks the charisma and cult of personality maintained by the late Hugo Chavez.
Despite the Geneva deal, anti-government protesters in Ukraine's eastern regions don't intend to leave any time soon.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
join our mailing list