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Ukraine Court Rejects Saakashvili's Plea For Protection From Extradition

Mikheil Saakashvili stands with supporters during a rally demanding President Petro Poroshenko's resignation in Kyiv on February 4.
Mikheil Saakashvili stands with supporters during a rally demanding President Petro Poroshenko's resignation in Kyiv on February 4.

KYIV -- A Kyiv court has rejected opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili's appeal for protection against possible extradition, a ruling his lawyer says increases the chances he will be deported or handed over to the Georgian authorities.

The Administrative Court of Appeals said on February 5 that a January 3 decision by another court, which in turn had upheld a previous ruling, remained unchanged.

Saakashvili, who walked out of the court after several of his motions were rejected, contended that the ruling was politically motivated and dictated by President Petro Poroshenko -- a former friend who is now a bitter foe.

"With this [ruling] I am losing the status of a resident in Ukraine. This is yet another decision by Poroshenko, not by the court," he wrote on Facebook.

Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia from 2004-2013, is wanted there on charges including abuse of office, which he says are fabricated.

"We all need to be prepared for the fact that the authorities in an illegal manner will make the decision on his compulsory deportation or possible extradition," a lawyer for Saakashvili, Ruslan Chernolutskyy, said in a video posted by Saakashvili.

Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015, when he accepted Ukrainian citizenship and Poroshenko's offer of a job as governor of the Odesa region.

But he resigned from the post in November 2016, accusing the government of undermining his efforts to fight corruption and carry out reforms.

Saakashvili has become an outspoken opponent of Poroshenko, who came to power after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled amid massive protests known the Euromaidan in 2014.

In July 2017, Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship while he was abroad.

In September, Saakashvili defied a border blockade and crossed back into Ukraine, where he has been leading anti-Poroshenko protests and taking on the state in a series of court cases.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Saakashvili of abetting an alleged "criminal group" led by Yanukovych, and claim the protests he has led are part of a Russian plot against the government in Kyiv.

Saakashvili has denied all the charges, calling them "absurd" and politically motivated.

In December, Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said Saakashvili was likely to be extradited to Georgia.

On January 5, a Tbilisi court found him guilty of abuse of power, ruling that he tried to cover up evidence about a 2006 murder case, and sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison.

With reporting by Reuters
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