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Georgia dissident's death not homicide, police say

February 15, 2008|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Initial tests indicate that Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, an opposition leader who had claimed he was the target of an assassination plot, died of natural causes, British police said Thursday.

Patarkatsishvili, 52, died Tuesday night in his mansion near London less than two months after he said he feared for his life because of his role in a protest movement against Georgia's government.

Patarkatsishvili's recent complaints about chest pains -- and the way he collapsed before dying -- were consistent with coronary heart disease, a Surrey police spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Toxicology tests will take at least 10 weeks, she said. A coroner's inquest will be opened today, police said.

Patarkatsishvili collapsed Tuesday at his home in Leatherhead, 20 miles south of London, surrounded by friends and family, police said.

He said in December that he had obtained a tape recording of a Georgian Interior Ministry official asking a Chechen warlord to kill him.

Patarkatsishvili fled from Russia to Georgia in 2001 after he was accused of helping a colleague try to break out of prison. He denied the charges and claimed that the Kremlin targeted him in a crackdown on independent media.

He helped bankroll Georgia's so-called Rose Revolution, which ended Eduard Shevardnadze's government and brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power in 2003. Patarkatsishvili and Saakashvili later fell out over policy differences.

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