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Georgian Police Seizure Of Satellite Dishes Sparks Free Speech Claims

Georgian police grapple with workers as they seize dishes at a satellite TV outlet on June 1.
Georgia's opposition is accusing the government of attacking freedom of speech following police raids that have led to the seizure of some 300,000 satellite television dishes across the country.

The satellite dishes were impounded during raids in Tbilisi and elsewhere as part of what authorities describe as an investigation into suspected vote-buying by billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili's "Georgian Dream" coalition.

Ivanishvili was fined more than $90 million earlier this month for alleged political funding violations, including distributing satellite dishes for free.

The penalty was later cut to $45 million.

The opposition coalition accuses the authorities of trying to prevent people from watching Ivanishvili's opposition Kanal 9 television channel as the businessman campaigns to oust President Mikheil Saakashvili's governing party in parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

Based on reporting by AFP and Gruziya on-line