TBILISI -- A Georgian court has found a senior member of the opposition Georgian Dream political coalition guilty of fraud and sentenced him to six years in absentia.
Investigators said Melik Raisian, who is the head of the local branch of the coalition in the southern Akhalkalaki district, tried to extort $24,000 from a local man in 2007 and promised to help him evade taxes in return.
The court also ruled that Raisian, whose current whereabouts is unknown, has to pay a $6,000 fine.
Manana Kobakhidze, the chairwoman of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia coalition, said Raisian was charged only after he joined the opposition coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The Georgian Dream coalition is seen as the main challenger to the ruling United National Movement party in parliamentary elections in October.
With reporting by Interfax and Apsny.ge