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Georgian Ex-President Saakashvili Says He Will Return To 'Save The Country' Despite Jail Threat

Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo)
Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo)

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said he will return to help "save the country" on October 2, the day local elections are being held in Georgia.

Saakashvili, who is currently based in Ukraine, said he planned to fly back to Tbilisi despite facing imprisonment on charges that he rejects as politically motivated.

"...The fate of Georgia is being decided, Georgia's survival is at stake and that's why I took a ticket on the evening of October 2 so I can be with you and protect your (political) will with you, so I can take part in saving Georgia," said Saakashvili in a video on his Facebook page, where he also posted a photo of his purported plane ticket.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the police would arrest Saakashvili if he came back.

"As soon as Saakashvili steps on our soil he will be arrested and sent to prison," the Interfax news agency cited Garibashvili as telling reporters.

Saakashvili was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison by a Georgian court in June 2018 for abuse of power and seeking to cover up evidence about the beating of an opposition member of parliament when he was president.

Tensions have been high in Georgia between the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition, which Saakashvili supports, since parliamentary elections last year that the opposition said were rigged.

International observers said at the time that the election had been competitive and that fundamental freedoms had generally been respected.

In his Facebook video, Saakashvili called for post-election protests.

"We must all vote and show our position, and only when the polls close, we should go out onto the streets of our cities and villages, and protect our votes and our victory," said Saakashvili, who helped found the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party.

Before it annulled a political deal with the opposition brokered by the European Union, Georgian Dream agreed to call early parliamentary elections if it failed to secure at least 43 percent of the vote in the local polls.

With reporting by Reuters

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