Several hundred supporters of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili demanded his release. The protesters gathered in Rustavi, about 40 kilometers from the capital Tbilisi, where Saakashvili has been imprisoned since returning from exile last week. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili refused to release Saakashvili and announced that he would serve his full sentence of six years in prison.
In a televised address on Sunday evening, Garibashvili threatened that the charges against Saakashvili could be expanded if Saakashvili did not act appropriately. The prime minister added: “No one in the world can convince us to release Saakashvili.”
Washington calls for a fair trial
Meanwhile, the US State Department said the Washington administration is closely following developments in Georgia. The United States demanded a fair trial for Saakashvili because of the rule of law.
The pro-Western politician was the president of the Caucasus Republic from 2004 to 2013, after which he went into exile. Recently he lived in Ukraine. On Friday – a day before the local elections in Georgia – Saakashvili returned home. He was arrested immediately. The 53-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison in absentia for misuse of office. He himself dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.
Coordination overshadowed allegations of forgery
According to official information, the ruling Georgian Dream Party won the local elections on Saturday. The opposition complained of electoral fraud. OSCE observers noted that there were widespread allegations of intimidation, vote buying and intimidation of candidates and voters.
Run-off elections will be held at the end of the month, including in Tbilisi. Saakashvili called on the opposition via Facebook to unite before the elections in order to “restore democracy”. The United National Movement, which he founded at that time, is one of the most important opposition parties in Georgia.
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