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Mysterious Glitch Pushes Off Israelis' Bribery Trial in Georgia

Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel were arrested last year during a meeting with a Georgian deputy minister and were accused of offering the official a bribe.

The trial of two Israeli businessmen charged with attempted bribery of a Georgian official, which was to open Tuesday in Tbilisi, was postponed due an unidentified "technical failure."

The Georgian media was preoccupied Tuesday with demonstrations by political opposition groups and marking the seventh anniversary of the rise to power President Mikheil Saakashvili.

George Laperashvili, a senior official with the Georgian TV channel Rustavi, told Haaretz Tuesday that the Georgian media had received no information about the upcoming trial.

Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel were arrested last year during a meeting with a Georgian deputy minister and were accused, along with Fuchs's Greek associate Ioannis Kardassopoulos, of offering the official a bribe. Kardassopoulos is wanted by the Georgian authorities as a fugitive from justice.

Ron Fuchs Georgia arrest, Aviv Chofy
Aviv Chofy

In March 2010, Fuchs and Kardassopoulos won an international arbitration verdict under which the Georgian government was to award them $101 million in damages after they alleged that the government had broken a contract between them and Georgia's national oil company, signed in the early 1990s. The agreement was to have allowed Fuchs and his partner to export oil via Turkey, where Fuchs serves as honorary consul.

Since their arrest six weeks ago, associates have been pressuring the Georgian government through Israeli and American political channels because they do not believe the pair will get a fair trial. If found guilty, they could serve six to eight years in jail.

British human rights attorneys Geoffrey Roberston and John R.W.D. Jones have said that if Fuchs, Frenkiel or Kardassopoulos are convicted on the current evidence, the European Court of Human Rights will almost certainly find this contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Georgia is a signatory.