Protesters demand Saakashvili’s release
TBILISI: Thousands of flag-waving supporters of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, jailed after returning from exile this month, protested in Tbilisi on Thursday to demand his release as his lawyer called on them to help save the country.
The rally attracted the most protesters since pro-Western Saakashvili’s arrest on Oct 1 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, charges he says are politically motivated.
Mr Saakashvili’s lawyer read a statement by him from the stage as the crowd massed in the city centre.
“It’s time to save Georgia now, that’s why we have to be together ... This Carthage of evil, betrayal and oppression will certainly fall,” the ex-president wrote, referring to the ancient city destroyed by war.
Many Georgian national flags were seen above the crowd, with some holding flags of the European Union and Ukraine, where Mr Saakashvili lived before returning to his home country.
Mr Saakashvili, president until 2013, led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ended the presidency of Eduard
Shevardnadze. He is a figurehead for some, but derided as a clown by the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Protester Misha Mshvildadze said: “This is not justice what’s going on with him, this is a political vendetta.”
The day after Mr Saakashvili’s arrest, the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party founded by the ex-president received 30.7% support at municipal elections, losing to the Georgian Dream party. UNM Chairman Nika Melia will contest the next round of Tbilisi’s mayoral election on Oct. 30.