Thousands demand release of former Georgian president Saakashvili
Tbilisi, Oct 14 (EFE).- Thousands of protesters on Thursday took to the streets of the Georgian capital Tbilisi to call for the release of Mikheil Saakashvili, the country’s former president who was arrested on his return from exile in Ukraine earlier this month.
The demonstration was called by the United National Movement that was founded by Saakashvili, who is also a Ukrainian citizen.
Saakashvili, who is being held in a detention center in the city of Rustavi, declared a hunger strike following his arrest on Oct. 1.
In 2018, the 53-year-old was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for organizing an attack on an opposition lawmaker and to another three years for abuse of power.
“Former President Saakashvili made a great contribution to the development of the country and should not be in jail. He is a political prisoner,” said Zaal Udumashvili, one of the country’s opposition leaders.
Protesters held signs in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square reading “Freedom for Misha (short for Mikheil)” and “Free Saakashvili”.
“I have come from Kejetia (in the east),” Onisime, a middle-aged man, told EFE.
He added that “regardless of political preferences, a former president cannot be in prison.”
“When Saakashvili governed (2004-2013) many good things were done, although there were also things with which I did not agree. But I do not want him to go hungry and be behind bars,” Onisime said. EFE