8 Georgian opposition members to remain in custody

TBILISI, Georgia — A Georgian court ruled Wednesday that eight opposition supporters accused of plotting a coup and terrorist acts should remain in custody for two months as they await trial.

Police released video recordings this week allegedly showing the men trying to buy weapons with the intent of causing violence during opposition protests next month.

Most of those sent to detention are supporters of the party of Nino Burdzhanadze, a former parliamentary speaker who once was one of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s closest allies.

Burdzhanadze broke with Saakashvili last year and now is one of the key figures in the call for big rallies April 9 that will demand that Saakashvili step down.

Burdzhanadze accuses police of planting weapons at supporters’ homes.

On Wednesday, officials released more recordings of alleged coup plans by opposition members. One recording purportedly shows a member of Burdzhanadze’s party, Roina Bukhrashvili, as saying that a civil war would be in the party’s interests.

Burdzhanadze said that "if it’s confirmed that members of the party obtained weapons, they should be harshly punished. However, if this is a provocation by authorities, then the authorities should not go unpunished."

When Saakashvili was elected in 2004, after the peaceful "Rose Revolution" protests that he and Burdzhanadze led, he was widely seen as a democratic reformer.

But many one-time colleagues have broken with him, criticizing him as headstrong and authoritarian.

Dissatisfaction with him has grown since a brief but devastating war with Russia in August. The war started after an intense Georgian barrage of the capital of South Ossetia, a Russia-backed separatist region.

Russia drove Georgian forces out of South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, and inflicted heavy damage on Georgia’s armed forces.

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