Igor Giorgadze lives in Russia since fleeing his homeland, where he was accused of organizing an assassination attempt on the then-president, Eduard Shevardnadze, in 1995. Since Mikhail Saakashvili came to power on the back of the 2003 "rose revolution", the former head of Georgia's security service has repeatedly called for the president's resignation and founded an opposition party, Justice, in 2003.
"A special operation to detain members of the Justice party and other organizations, which backed Igor Giorgadze, started across Georgia at 5 a.m. local time," Vano Merabishvili said. "In all, 29 people were arrested."
He said Georgian law enforcement bodies had information that the detained were preparing to overthrow the government of Georgia and arranging for Giorgadze to return. The minister added that the detained would be charged with treason and preparing a coup d'etat.
Irina Sarishvili, who runs the Igor Giorgadze Foundation in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, said earlier that she has also been charged with involvement in a conspiracy against the state.
Sarishvili told RIA Novosti over the phone that she had become the target of investigators. "I am in my office, where a search is about to start," she said. "In the morning, prosecutors charged me with complicity in some kind of conspiracy."
She was unable to give any more details.
Today's move came after the head of another Giorgadze-backed political movement, Anti-Soros, was arrested early Wednesday. The group was established to counter the influence of U.S. billionaire George Soros, who allegedly sponsored the "rose revolution" that displaced Shevardnadze and brought pro-West Saakashvili to power.
An aide to the Justice party chairman linked the two arrests to what he called the deteriorating political situation in Georgia, as the ruling elite tries to bring mutinous regions back under its control and implement controversial reforms.
"We link the arrest of our comrades to the deteriorating situation, both in Georgia and around South Ossetia, and in the entire region," Konstantin Deich said.
A RIA Novosti correspondent reported that Anti-Soros movement leader Maya Nikoleishvili, the leader of the opposition Conservative Monarchist Party, Teimuraz Zhorzholiani and Giorgadze's relative Maya Topuriya - all arrested today - were brought to the Georgian Interior Ministry's constitutional security department.
Lawyers said Zhorzholiani and Nikoleishvili were charged with treason and preparing a coup d'etat.