Supporters want immunity guarantees for Georgian billionaire

Georgia Materials 13 December 2007 12:16 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - The head of a group of Badri Patarkatsishvili's supporters is demanding that foreign diplomats in Georgia provide security guarantees for the presidential candidate.

Billionaire businessman Patarkatsishvili, who is suspected by Georgian authorities of seeking to instigate a coup during November's protests, was registered December 9 as a presidential candidate for snap polls. The businessman currently lives abroad.

Valery Gelbakhiani said: "The authorities do not want to give Patarkatsishvili security guarantees. Therefore we are demanding that the diplomatic corps assist us and persuade the Georgian leadership to provide immunity for Patarkatsishvili."

Gelbakhiani said the presidential contender expected to arrive in Georgia on Friday and has pledged to spend $1 billion on social programs if he wins the elections.

"These will not be budget funds, but financed from his own resources," he told Georgian national television.

A Georgian government official said the country's law did not provide immunity for individuals.

"The law places all presidential candidates on an equal footing. It is unlawful to demand more or less than the law allows," said David Bakradze, Georgia's state minister for conflict settlement and head of the election headquarters of former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who stepped down in late November to start his election campaign.

Saakashvili called early elections after riot police clamped down on opposition protesters in Tbilisi, who demanded his resignation over corruption allegations. The elections will be held on January 5, 2008.