Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced Friday that former opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested Friday upon his return to his country after eight years in exile, amid a political crisis.
“The third president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, was arrested and imprisoned,” he said in a press conference. Saakashvili was being prosecuted for “abuse of power” in a case he considered political.
According to him, Georgian security forces monitored Saakashvili’s movements from Ukraine and “decided on a police operation in a place and time with fewer obstacles to arrest.”
Saakashvili is being prosecuted for “abuse of power” in a case he considers political, in which he was sentenced in absentia in 2018 to six years in prison.
The return and arrest of the 53-year-old former president is expected to exacerbate the political crisis in Georgia, where local elections are scheduled for Sunday, which is considered a major vote for the ruling “Georgian Dream” party.
Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013, announced that he had returned to his country on Friday morning in a video clip posted on YouTube, in which he said he was in the coastal city of Batumi.
The Georgian authorities initially denied that the former president and founder of Georgia’s main opposition party, the “United National Movement”, had been able to return to the country.
Before his arrest, Saakashvili called on his supporters to gather on Sunday and head to the capital, Tbilisi, “to protect the results of the vote.”