TBILISI, DFWatch–Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili allegedly returned on Friday to his home country on Friday after eight and a half years’ absence. Law enforcement authorities arrested the former leader the same evening.
The news about the ex-president’s arrest sparked celebrations among the opposition and frustration within the government, and threatened to overshadow preparations for regional and municipal elections to be held the next day, on Saturday 2 October.
Earlier, Saakashvili posted a short video address on Facebook, where he said he would be arrested soon and called on his supporters to take an active part in the October 2 elections.
Opposition groups consider the local elections a referendum for or against the ruling GD party, which unseated Saakashvili in 2012 in a landslide election win and has remained in power since.
Earlier, on Friday morning, his statement on Facebook that he had arrived in Georgia caused a great stir. The ruling Georgian Dream claimed that he was in fact in Ukraine and that his announcement of his arrival in Georgia was a bluff.
“Mikheil Saakashvili is in Ukraine, in the resort of Truskavets, at the Rixos Hotel […] This person ended his political career once again, ending the National Movement with this dirty fake today,” GD spokesman Mamuka Mdinaradze said at a briefing Friday.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated in the afternoon that Mikheil Saakashvili had not left Ukraine. As the Deputy Minister stated at the briefing at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, this information was confirmed by his Ukrainian colleagues.
“Saakashvili is not in Georgia; This person is a clown, we told you this yesterday, the day before yesterday, and before that and it was confirmed by him,” said Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the Georgian Dream.
GD denied Saakashvili’s arrival in Georgia until PM Irakli Gharibashvili announced at a briefing Friday evening that the former president had been arrested. The minister of internal affairs and the head of the Georgian bureau for domestic intelligence, the State Security Service, were standing next to him, clearly indicating that both agencies were involved in the operation.
UNM Chairman Nika Melia said at a briefing late Friday evening that the opposition would win the October 2 elections and that “the Georgian Dream would end.”
“After tomorrow’s victory, (Mikheil Saakashvili) will be released and the country will be freed. Being in prison is not a problem, the problem is when the country looks like a closed prison,” said Nika Melia.