World Bulletin/News Desk
A Georgian court froze the bank accounts of retired footballer and opposition leader Kakha Kaladze in a money-laundering probe on Friday that opponents foes of President Mikhail Saakhshvili's government say is a campaign of legal harassment.
The football star, who won the Champions League twice with Italy's AC Milan, will stand against the ruling party in October parliamentary polls as part of a newly formed Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Ivanishvili, 56, whose fortune is estimated at $6.4 billion by Forbes magazine, has united and breathed new life into the fractured opposition in the Caucasus state of 4.5 million, angering the government, which still leads opinion polls.
"It's obvious that it's a political persecution," Maya Panjikidze, a spokeswoman for Georgian Dream, said of the latest case to dog the opposition coalition.
"We consider the court's decision as illegal," she said.
Georgia's chief prosecutor's office said in a statement that Kaladze was under suspicion after he received $6 million on his bank account and then withdrawn 1.6 million lari ($97,000) "in a short period of time".
Saakashvili became the West's darling when he rose to power after the bloodless "rose revolution" that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze in 2003. But opponents have since accused him of curbing political freedom and criticise him for leading Georgia into a brief, disastrous war with Russia in August 2008.
In the latest twist in the standoff between Saakashvili's government and his foes, a Georgian court on Friday released assets seized from Ivanishvili after he paid a $49 million fine.
Ivanishvili's Cartu Bank, JSC Cartu Group, and a 21.7-percent share in Progress Bank were seized in June after the billionaire refused to pay a multi-million dollar fine.
At the time, Ivanishvili argued it was illegal to confiscate the assets, saying he had passed all shares in the companies to his son. State authorities, however, said the asset transfer had not been registered with the Georgian National Bank.
Ivanishvili paid the 80-million-lari fine earlier this week, but maintained the penalty was "illegal".
A once-reclusive tycoon, Ivanishvili and his family have come under the state scrutiny in a myriad of cases since he launched a political movement last year.
Recent showdown between NATO and Russia is believed to be a possible solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh question in Azerbaijan
No working group can tackle question between Turkey and Russia unless Turkey takes step first, Kremlin spokesman says
Mohamad Taher Siala, a foreign ministry employee for three decades, 'officially took up his post' at the ministry building
As it is announced the number of the Chechen refugees living in Germany it is increased.
'Following last week's closure of the Idomeni refugee camp, the number of refugees trying to cross Hungary's barrier has increased,' Hungarian PM's chief adviser says
Today, Sadiq Khan and I will set aside our differences to show how remaining in Europe guarantees we are better off: UK PM
Council of Europe representative says Greece failed to 'to create decent facilities that meet international standards'
Two Tunisian civilians are killed and one other injured by a landmine planted by extremist groups near the Algerian border
As part of a peace deal, Palestinian Authority wants NATO to substitute IDF forces in the West Bank
'The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015,' the French capital's tourism board says
Deadly blasts occurred in three different areas killing eleven, wounding dozens
Muslim pilgrims mark prayer helping to end a drought over 5 centuries ago
A neo-Nazi has been arrested after threatening to massacre refugees
Counter-terrorism service forces forces entered the city under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation and supported by artillery and tanks
The IMF has refused to back Greece's rescue plan with some seeing the move as the IMF making an effort to protect its own reputation
Hissene Habré, 73, is a former rebel leader who took power by force in 1982 and was then supported by the US and France to remain at the helm as a bulwark to Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya.