During the special briefing on October 1, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said former President Mikheil Saakashvili has been arrested.
The Georgian PM did not specify where or when the detention took place, but media reports noted former President was detained in Sanzona neighborhood in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Media footage also showed handcuffed Saakashvili being taken into prison N12 in southern town of Rustavi.
Earlier today the Georgian Dream party leadership and the Interior Ministry have denied reports that wanted ex-President had returned to the country.
During the press conference, however, the Prime Minister said the authorities had prior knowledge of Saakashvili’s route from Ukraine to Georgia, and chose an appropriate timing for the arrest to minimize hindrances to the operation.
In a video which was posted to the former President’s Facebook page after the arrest, Saakashvili says he was in Tbilisi, adding it was likely he would be detained soon. Saakashvili called on his supporters to remain calm, go and vote in the October 2 polls.
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, who met detained ex-President in Rustavi prison, announced late on October 1 that Saakashvili went on a hunger strike, denying sentences against him as politically motivated. The Public Defender also cited Saakashvili as demanding to meet an Ukrainian consul in Tbilisi.
Reacting to Saakashvili’s arrest, United National Movement chairperson and Tbilisi Mayoral candidate Nika Melia said “both Saakashvili and the country will be freed, after winning tomorrow” in October 2 local elections.
Saakashvili, who left the country in November 2013 amidst the end of his second presidential term, was wanted by the Georgian Dream government on multiple charges. He was sentenced in absentia in 2018 on two separate abuse of power charges – three years for pardoning the former Interior Ministry officials, convicted in the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani and six years for organizing an attack on opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.
The Prosecutor’s Office said in a late night briefing on October 1 that the Interior Ministry is leading investigation over Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing. In this regard, new charges may be brought against Saakashvili under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, punishable by three to five years of prison.
This article was updated with comments by UNM Chair Nika Melia and Public Defender on 01:36, October 2, 2021.