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Families of two Israeli businessmen jailed in Georgia for seeking to bribe a senior official have asked President Mikheil Saakashvili to pardon the two men, their lawyer said on Thursday.

'Because of (their) age and health problems, their children request the president to pardon (them),' the lawyer, Archil Kbilashvili, told local Maestro TV.

'We submitted the petition on April 20 and now it's up to the president to decide whether to heed the request or not,' he said.

Saakashvili's spokeswoman, Manana Manjgaladze, told AFP that the appeal would be considered 'in due course.'

'All are equal before the law, no one has privileges,' she said. 'The case will be examined by the State Pardon Commission.'

Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel were convicted of seeking to bribe Georgia's deputy finance minister to drop an appeal against an international arbitration ruling which awarded $98.1 million (62.2 million euros) to Fuchs and another businessman, Greek national Ioannis Kardassopoulos.

Fuchs was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $293,000 (207,000 euros), while Frenkiel was jailed for six and a half years and fined $59,000 (41,000 euros).

The two men were arrested last October and claimed during their trial that they had been set up.
The authorities have rejected the claim.

Under Saakashvili, Georgia has won widespread recognition for its efforts to root out corruption, although critics have also raised concerns about the lack of judicial independence in the country.

Local media have said senior Georgian officials were recently forced to cancel their planned trips to Israel amid concerns about the case.

The authorities have denied this, insisting the relationship between the two countries has not been damaged.

Last year, Fuchs and Kardassopoulos were given the multi-million-dollar compensation award by the International Centre for Settlement and Investment Disputes, a World Bank arm for investor-state dispute arbitration.

The award came after Georgia terminated an agreement made in the early 1990s for their company to develop energy projects in the country.

Georgian Daily

M.B

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