Saakashvili escapes pretrial detention in Ukraine on a judge′s ruling | News | DW | 11.12.2017
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Saakashvili escapes pretrial detention in Ukraine on a judge's ruling

A judge has denied a request by prosecutors to put former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili under house arrest. He is accused of trying to bring down the Ukrainian president.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the controversial former president of Georgia turned politician in Ukraine, escaped pretrial detention on Monday thanks to a judge's order.

He was arrested Friday, and faces charges of colluding with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russia in an attempt to bring down Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and prosecutors sought to have him put under house arrest.

Judge Larysa Tsokol decided to set Saakashvili free. "The prosecutors' petition ... is dismissed," she told the court.

However, the case against the politician remains open.

Saakashvili puts his head in his hand while his wife sits by his side.

Saakashvili had some tough moments in court, with his wife by his side

Saakashvili, whose supporters last week hindered authorities seeking to arrest him, has denied the allegations and had gone on a hunger strike to protest his arrest. He denounced his prosecution as a political attempt to remove him from public life.

"I don't consider myself a detainee, I consider myself a prisoner of war," he told journalists before the court hearing.

During the hearing he said, "I consider myself a prisoner of Ukrainian oligarchs," an apparent reference to the business background of Poroshenko, a wealthy businessman active in numerous sectors, most notably confectioneries, before turning to politics.

Outside the courthouse about 200 of Saakashvili's supporters scuffled with police. Prosecutors allege that Saakashvili cooperated with allies of former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, currently in hiding in Russia, and took money from the Russians. Saakashvili had supported the revolution in Ukraine that ousted Yanukovych; Poroshenko later named him governor of Odessa province.

Inside the courthouse Saakashvili called on his followers to remain calm, saying "we don't want confrontation, we don't want any sharp moves."

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who now heads an opposition party that has also begun to criticize Poroshenko's government, attended the court hearing in a show of support for Saakashvili.

Corruption allegations

Thousands of Saakashvili's supporters marched across Kyiv on Sunday, demanding his release and calling for Poroshenko to be impeached.

Saakashvili rose to power in Georgia during the 2003 Rose Revolution that drove then President Eduard Shevardnadze from office. Saakashvili served two terms as president of Georgia from 2004-2013.

He won plaudits for his anti-corruption efforts but was criticized for getting the country into a disastrous war with Russia. Critics also accused him of having an authoritarian streak, and he was subsequently charged with embezzlement in Georgia.

He fled to Ukraine in 2014 and was granted Ukrainian citizenship. Poroshenko even made him governor of the strategically important Odessa region.

But the two men had a falling out; Saakashvili accused Poroshenko of corruption and subsequently was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship.

Inside the courtroom Saakashvili called the trial "a shame" of current authorities that has inspired critical media coverage.

"Look at the Western press, they gone crazy!" he said emotionally. "One terrible article after another is the shame of Ukraine."

"Putin is winning, he is laughing, he is roaring with laughter," Saakashvili continued, ridiculing the notion that he could possibly be plotting together with the Russian authorities.

Georgia is also seeking Saakashvili's extradition to face charges there; the government in Kyiv on Monday told news agency Reuters that it was also considering this request.

bik/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)

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