(KYIV) – On Monday a district court in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv rejected a motion by the country’s Prosecutor General to hold Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili in pre-trial detention and ordered his immediate release after being held in custody since his Friday arrest by Ukraine’s SBU security services.
Kyiv Court Orders Release of Georgia’s Ex-President Saakashvili
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, December 13
Saakashvili, who is accused of cooperation with criminal groups linked with Russia, hailed the decision, while claiming he enjoyed huge public support that would translate into increased pressure on Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, to step down or risk being impeached.
After leaving the SBU’s headquarters, Saakashvili called for a large-scale rally in Kyiv’s iconic Maidan Square – site of the 2014 revolution that toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych – on December 17.
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, said his office would challenge the verdict in the court of appeals. Lutsenko claims the prosecution has audio recordings of Saakashvili making contact with pro-Russian individuals who gave him money to organize coup against Poroshenko.
Prosecution wanted Saakashvili to remain under house arrest during the pre-trial period to protect him from the threat of assassination by Russia’s feared FSB – the successor to the Soviet KGB.
Saakashvili’s release triggered an outcry in Tbilisi, with the opposition praising the judge and forecasting “changing of regimes” both in Ukraine and Georgia.
A big number of Georgian opposition parties believe Saakashvili is politically persecuted in Ukraine.
Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has refused to weigh in on the Saakashvili case, saying only that the current crisis was an internal Ukrainian matter. A similar statement was made by current president of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili earlier last week.
On Tuesday Georgia’s Speaker of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze stated the Georgian government does have a political “interest” in the case.
“We have no political agreement with Ukraine on accelerating the process of Saakashvili’s extradition to Georgia,” Kobakhidze said as reported by civil.ge.
Since December 5 to 8 Saakashvili and his supporters were in tents in front of Rada, demanding the change of Ukraine’s government. Saakashvili was re-detained late on December 8 at his ally’s apartment, where he moved due to complicated health.
Saakashvili served as Georgia’s president for a decade, but fled the country in 2013 after facing several abuse of power charges during his time in office.
He was later appointed as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in 2015 by his then-ally, Poroshenko. The two later fell out amid charges by Saakashvili that the presidential administration was intentionally hindering his reform projects and was involved in widespread corruption schemes connected to organized crime gangs in Odessa and Moscow.
Saakashvili resigned as governor in November 2016 and was later stripped by Poroshenko of his Ukrainian citizenship that was granted to him by presidential decree when he took up the post a year earlier.
This move left Saakashvili stateless as his Georgian citizenship was revoked in 2015 when he received a Ukrainian passport, a violation of Georgia’s dual citizenship laws.