Georgia ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili given 10-year jail sentence

By Lewis Jardine, CNN • Updated 27th August 2021

After a prolonged and bitter legal battle, Georgian authorities have seen off former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The 65-year-old — who stepped down in late 2016, accusing authorities of torture and unfair trial — finally found himself on the wrong side of the law last week when he was convicted of abuse of office and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Saakashvili’s supporters, however, refuse to bow to the ruling and have gathered outside the Georgian parliament in the capital Tbilisi to show their displeasure.

‘Unjust political trial’

About 1,000 people marched to parliament in a largely peaceful rally on Sunday.

Packed into the building’s cavernous main hall, protesters called the trial “unjust” and defiantly sang songs calling on the authorities to “free” Saakashvili.

Police used tear gas to disperse crowds briefly in an attempt to stop them continuing on to parliament’s grounds, but the demonstration was soon allowed to continue.

Scores of police, some armed with water cannon, formed a cordon at one point, but demonstrators — waving signs and banging drums — managed to reach the building’s entrance.

Protesters said the trial was a political one and had been used to show the Georgian establishment that it could still take one of its own.

Saakashvili’s supporters also thanked the United States and UK for lobbying for the former president’s release.

‘Stabilizing influence’

Saakashvili had become a “stabilizing influence” in the volatile region of Central Asia after he won elections to lead neighboring Ukraine between 2004 and 2010.

He played a key role in ending Russia’s occupation of Georgia in 2008 and signed trade agreements with the US and EU to “de-militarize” the region.

Saakashvili fled to Ukraine in 2010 after losing the 2010 election.

He returned to Georgia in 2015 to stand as a candidate for mayor of the capital, Tbilisi, but he was detained in the days leading up to the election, initially accused of resisting police and fraud.

Accused of undermining the rule of law, Saakashvili was charged in a lengthy trial.

Saakashvili’s conviction has already been appealed, and his supporters have appealed the decision to sentence him to 10 years.

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