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Georgian Opposition Paper Closes After Search

TBILISI (Reuters) -- The owner of one of Georgia's biggest opposition newspapers has said he would halt publication because of intimidation by the authorities against his family.

"Georgian Times" owner Malkhaz Gulashvili said that armed police on March 13 stopped and searched a car in which his son was driving.

He said the search was revenge for his paper's opposition to President Mikheil Saakashvili and the latest sign of a slide towards authoritarianism in Georgia.

"This is psychological terror," Gulashvili told reporters at a news briefing. "Why don't they tell us there is dictatorship in Georgia and stop creating the illusion that the country is a democracy."

Saakashvili is accused by opponents of clamping down on media freedoms and provoking last year's disastrous war, when Russia sent in tanks and troops to repel a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia.

The Interior Ministry said they were not aware of the search and rejected any possible political motivation.

"There is nothing politically motivated happening to Gulashvili," spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Gulashvili said that other publications in his holding, including the English version of the "Georgian Times," would continue. He said he did not know when publication of the Georgian version of the paper would resume.