Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, 53, was arrested early Friday evening October 1, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, member of the Georgian Dream Party, proudly announced.
Mr. Gharibashvili took the opportunity to congratulate the founder of his political party, the all-powerful billionaire Bidzina Ivinishvili, on the ninth anniversary – to the day – of his electoral victory over Mr. Saakashvili and his United National Movement (MNU), during the legislative elections of 2012. Elections which marked the first democratic alternation of the country.
Not sure, however, that this arrest is good news for the Georgian authorities. TV channels showed the former president handcuffed, but smiling broadly, between two masked policemen, escorting him to Rustavi prison. As if the inmate was enjoying the trap set for the power in place.
According to Georgian Human Rights Defender Nino Lomjaria, who visited the troublemaker in prison, he believes he is “A political prisoner”; he has announced to start a hunger strike and demanded an interview with the consul of Ukraine, a country in which he pursues a parallel political career.
Ardent supporter of the EU, Putin’s bête noire
Mr. Saakachvili has Ukrainian nationality and was appointed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to head the National Council for Reforms. Kiev also immediately demanded explanations from the Georgian ambassador.
Mikheil Saakashvili knew that a cell was waiting for him as soon as he returned. Georgian justice, under the impetus of his implacable enemy Bidzina Ivanishvili, initiated, from 2014, a long series of criminal proceedings against him: brutal repression of an opposition demonstration in 2007, embezzlement of budgetary funds, bag of the opposition television station Imedi, assaults and even a murder he allegedly ordered. For this last case, Mikheil Saakachvili has already been sentenced in absentia to three years in prison. In return, the applicant accuses the Georgian authorities of “Settle political scores and try to appease Russia”.
A staunch supporter of integration into NATO and the European Union (EU), Mr. Saakachvili, upon coming to power in 2003, brought Georgia out of Russian orbit. His relations with Vladimir Putin had deteriorated to the point of leading to the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008, which led to the military defeat of Tbilisi.
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