The interior minister said Wednesday the country's law enforcement agencies had information that supporters of controversial former Georgian minister and security chief Igor Giorgadze were preparing to overthrow the government and making arrangements for Giorgadze's return from exile. In all, 29 people were detained in raids and 14 individuals who remained in custody Thursday were officially charged.
But Justice party representative Irina Sarishvili told a news conference that her party would seek to bring down President Mikheil Saakashvili, who himself came to power on the back of popular protests, and his government.
"We propose setting up a national disobedience movement and starting large-scale actions with only one demand: that the country's current leadership resigns," said Sarishvili, who runs the Igor Giorgadze Foundation in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.
Justice party leader Giorgadze himself is said to live in Russia after fleeing the country in 1995 when he was accused of organizing an assassination attempt on then-president Eduard Shevardnadze. He has denied the claims.
"If these authorities want revolution, they will get it," said Sarishvili, who also claimed Wednesday her office was being searched by security officers.
Georgian law enforcement agencies carried out an operation Wednesday to arrest supporters of Giorgadze, his Justice party and other public and political organizations, including the leader of the opposition Conservative Monarchist party, Teimuraz Zhorzholiani, and of the Anti-Soros political movement, Maya Nikoleishvili.
President Saakashvili told journalists in Poland, where he is on an official visit, that the alleged plotters would be dealt with harshly. "They will get what they deserve, and those who finance them can be sure of that," he said.
But Sarishvili rejected a statement by the Georgian Interior Ministry about an alleged conspiracy aiming at overthrowing the authorities at a party conference on May 4. "There was no conference and, of course, no plan to overthrow authorities," she said.
The detained activists have protested their innocence and have said their political work led to their arrest, which prompted Sarishvili to say the detentions looked like the start of a political repression campaign.
A senior Russian diplomat said Moscow, which has had tense relations with Tbilisi since the 2003 "rose revolution" brought Saakashvili to power, regarded the arrests as a domestic matter for Georgia.
"We regard yesterday's arrests of opposition representatives as the country's internal affair," Yury Popov, Russia's ambassador-at-large and co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission for Georgian-South Ossetian conflict resolution, told a news conference.
The diplomat also said it was unsurprising that some politicians in Georgia had accused Russia of financing the opposition's activities. "Georgia by habit blames Russia for all its troubles," Popov said.