Mikheil Saakashvili: Georgia’s ex-president says he returned to country despite arrest threat

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Former president Mikheil Saakashvili said on Friday he was back in Georgia, despite authorities’ threat to arrest him if he returned to the Caucasus country.

“I risked my life and my freedom to return,” Saakashvili said in a video posted on Facebook.

The politician, who said he was in the Georgian coastal city of Batumi, called for protests as the country is due to hold local elections this weekend.

“We all need to understand that voting for The Dream party will be the signature of the death penalty for Georgia. That’s why on October 2, we should all go to the elections to save Georgia. And on October 3, from the morning of October 3, let’s move from the whole of Georgia to protect the results of the elections,” Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili announced earlier this week that he planned to fly to Georgia for the weekend’s local elections.

But Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said on Tuesday that if Saakashvili “sets foot on Georgian soil, he will be immediately arrested and imprisoned.”

The 53-year-old, who served as president from 2004 to 2013, has been accused by the Georgian judiciary of abuse of power. Saakashvili states that the case is political.

The founder of the main opposition United National Movement (UNM) party had been living in exile in Ukraine.

Georgia was plunged into a political crisis since last year when opposition parties claimed there was massive fraud in the parliamentary elections.

In May, European Council President Charles Michel brokered an exit agreement, but the Georgian Dream unilaterally pulled out after two months, drawing criticism from the EU and the US.

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