Status: 14.10.2021 at 7:36 PM.
Thousands of Georgians demonstrated in Tbilisi for the release of their former head of state. Pro-Western Saakashvili has been jailed since early October – following a verdict for abuse of office.
Thousands took to the streets in Georgia for the release of former President Mikhail Saakashvili.
An AFP news agency correspondent said at least 50,000 people marched through the center of the capital Tbilisi, waving the national flag. The banners of the protesters included inscriptions such as “Freedom for Saakashvili” and “Not for political persecution”.
Saakashvili on hunger strike
The 53-year-old former head of state returned to Georgia from his Ukrainian exile in early October and was promptly arrested. He is now on hunger strike in jail. Protests against Saakashvili’s arrest have been going on for the past two weeks.
Saakashvili’s return to his country came just before the local elections, in which the ruling Georgian Dream Party won 46.7 percent of the vote, according to the official results, while the opposition parties received 53.3 percent of the total.
The second polling will be held on October 30 in major cities of the country. Saakashvili called on the opposition to join forces in advance to “restore democracy”.
OSCE looks at abuses in elections
Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the “Georgian Dream”, is considered an arch-rival of Saakashvili. Observers at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had previously drawn attention to widespread allegations of vote-buying and intimidation after the vote. The opposition largely condemned the fraud.
During his presidency from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili followed a pro-Western course. In 2018 he was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for abuse of office. Saakashvili, who now holds Ukrainian citizenship, dismissed the allegation of abuse of office as politically motivated.
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