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Saakashvili Denies Abashidze Immunity Offer

Aslan Abashidze (file photo) (RFE/RL) 5 December 2005 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today welcomed a decision by the Batumi City Court to issue an arrest warrant against Aslan Abashidze, the exiled leader of the autonomous republic of Ajara.

Addressing reporters, Saakashvili also denied claims by Abashidze's lawyer Shalva Shivgulidze that Georgian authorities had promised his client immunity from criminal prosecution.

Saakashvili said his government allowed the Ajar leader to leave Georgia only because he was under threat of physical assassination after he was deposed.

"We have honored the word we gave him under the law. However, everyone must answer for his or her own past deeds so that other people won't behave the same way in the future," Saakashvili said.

Abashidze was deposed in May 2004 amid a tense dispute with Saakashvili. He then fled to Russia.

Prosecutors accuse him of embezzling state property, illegally keeping opponents in custody, abusing his position, and ordering that a bridge linking Ajara to the rest of Georgia be destroyed during last year's crisis.

(Imedi TV/Rustavi 2)

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