Authorities in Georgia arrested former President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday after he returned from exile and staged a possible protest with his supporters in the opposition.
Saakashvili, a Western reformist who left. Caucasus country. Announcing his return in video messages on Friday, after his second term as president ended in 2013, he watched the local elections closely the day before.
His opponents in the ruling Georgian Dream Party warned that if he returned, he would be arrested in 2018 for misusing his position, and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibbashvili said he had been taken into custody.
“Georgia’s third president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has been arrested and sent to prison today,” Garbasholi told a news conference in the capital, Tbilisi.
The arrest of the 53-year-old will almost certainly cause a stir in Georgia Caucasus Which has been suffering from political instability for years.
In a video posted on social media on Friday morning, ساکاشولی۔ He said he was in the western city of Batumi and had returned to Georgia from Ukraine to ensure the transparency of Saturday’s election.
“I risked my life and my freedom,” Saakashvili said.
“I urge everyone to go to the polls and vote for the United National Movement,” he said, referring to Georgia’s main opposition party.
Local elections are a key test for the Georgian dream and are being seen inside and outside Georgia as a sign of the Republic’s retreat.
Saakashvili – who came to power after a peaceful uprising in 2004 and still commands extreme loyalty – called on his supporters to gather on the main highway in the capital, Tbilisi, on Sunday.
“If the usurper government takes me into custody before then, we have to strengthen it,” he said.
Saakashvili was convicted in absentia in 2018 of misusing official charges and sentenced to six years in prison. He denies any wrongdoing and says the case is politically motivated.
Officials said Saakashvili had no record of crossing Georgia’s borders as early as Friday, and Georgian Dream said he was lying about being in the country.
But Grebashvili told reporters that law enforcement agencies had tracked Saakashvili’s movements from Ukraine to Georgia and had “chosen a time and place for a police operation that would minimize arrests.” Will do. “
Saakashvili is based in Ukraine, where he heads a government agency that promotes reform.
Announcing his planned return to Georgia earlier this week, he said he would fly to Tbilisi on Saturday evening and post a copy of his ticket.
“If Saakashvili steps on Georgian soil, he will be immediately arrested and imprisoned,” Grebashvili said at the time.
Founded by powerful billionaire Budzina Evanshvili, the Georgian Dream has been the ruling party since 2012.
Critics have accused the party of using criminal cases to punish political opponents and journalists. Interpol rejected Tbilisi’s request for a red notice against Saakashvili.
Georgian Dream won parliamentary elections last year, but Saakashvili’s UNM-led opposition called the vote rigged and refused to take its seats.
The European Union (EU) has negotiated an agreement to end the crisis, with Georgian Dream promising to hold an immediate parliamentary vote if it wins less than 43% of the vote in Saturday’s local elections.
The ruling party unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in July, drawing strong criticism from the European Union and the United States.
With growing concerns in the West over the ruling party’s democratic credentials, the United States has hinted at possible sanctions against Georgian Dream officials.