[JURIST] A court in the central Asian republic of Georgia [official backgrounder], formerly part of the old Soviet Union, has sentenced 12 opposition activists to prison terms of up to eight-and-a-half years for participating in an alleged coup plot to overthrow the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili [official website]. Lawyers for the activists immediately condemned the ruling of the Tbilisi city court as political and an affront to the rule of law. Most of the defendants were associates of a former Georgian state security head who fled to neighboring Russia after he was charged with attempting to assassinate Georgian ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995.
Saakashvili has allied himself closely with the US and NATO since taking office in 2004 and Georgian authorities alleged that the convicted opposition activists had been supported by the Russian security services. Georgian-Russian relations have deteriorated markedly [JURIST report] in the last year. An American lawyer acting for one of the activists has already promised to appeal her case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. AFP has more.