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Ex-president Saakashvili Will Leave Georgia Only After Serving Sentence, Says PM Garibashvili.

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, October 5
The United National Movement (UNM) party members and their supporters gathered near the 12th penitentiary in Rustavi yesterday to support the third president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently arrested. According to the opposition MP, Tako Charkviani, emigrants also gathered to show support to the former president.

Nika Melia, chairman of the National Movement addressed the rally members by saying that while Saakashvili is in prison, he would be at the front line of the fight against Bidzina Ivanishvili. “No matter how hard they [Georgian Dream] try, they can never spark tension between me and him!” stressed Melia in response to PM Irakli Garibashvili’s statement, who claimed that Melia dislikes Saakashvili and ‘is glad’ the ex-president is in prison.

Saakashvili, who is a citizen of Ukraine, was detained in Tbilisi on October 1, ahead of Saturday’s municipal elections.

He claims that he returned to Georgia “to help Georgian people restore government and democracy.” Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office has charged father and son who transported him to Georgia’s western region of Samegrelo after illegally crossing into Georgia several days ago. A person who owned a flat where the ex-president was hiding before being detained has also been charged. The former president has started a hunger strike, claiming he will not stop until he and the people arrested because of him are not released.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced yesterday that he would do anything in his power to bring Saakashvili back to Ukraine.

“As President of Ukraine, I am constantly engaged in bringing back Ukrainian citizens through various means that I have within my power. Mikheil Saakashvili is a citizen of Ukraine, so this applies to him as well,” stated Zelensky at the briefing.

According to Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, the Ukrainian government has the right and duty to care for its citizens, however, before Saakashvili became a Ukrainian citizen "he was the president and a citizen of Georgia and has been charged following Georgian legislation."

Foreign Minister also stated that the ex-president ‘possibly’ violated the Ukrainian legislature by crossing its border illegally. Ukrainian edition Censor.NET reported yesterday that according to the Director of the Executive Committee of the National Council for Reforms in Odesa, an official inquiry has been launched into Saakashvili's departure from Ukraine.

The Group of European Conservatives and Reformers has stated Saakashvili’s detention, stating that “he was fully entitled to return to his homeland.” The ECR Group remarks that the allegations against him made by the ruling party are unfounded and calls upon the Georgian authorities to drop the charges and release him from custody immediately.

The statement praises Saakashvili’s achievements as well as his ‘pro-European and pro-Transatlantic stances’ which, according to the ECR group, lead to putting Georgia on the democratic path.

“We strongly believe that political revanchism is not a path that should be pursued by the authorities,” reads the statement.

According to the Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy of the EU, Nabila Massrali, the EU calls on the government of Georgia as well as opposition parties to exercise restraint and respect the rule of law. According to her, an inclusive parliamentary process, political stability, and a judicial system that is trusted by Georgian citizens is a precondition for Georgia to deepen its partnership with the EU per the Association Agreement. “All parties must engage in de-escalation efforts,” Massrali states.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has noted that they would not accept requests from anyone in the world to release Saakashvili and stressed that he will be able to leave the country only after he serves his prison term.

Saakashvili faces several criminal charges in Georgia such as violent dispersal of anti-government mass protests on November 7, 2007, unlawful raiding of Imedi television company by riot police, exceeding official powers by using violence, and appropriation or embezzlement of budget money in large quantities.