Mikheil Saakashvili in the Pechersk District Court, December 11, 2017. Photo: unian.net
The Pechersk District Court in Kyiv turned down the prosecution’s motion to place the ex-President of Georgia and the leader of the Movement of New Forces party in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, to pre-trial house arrest for two months, releasing him from courtroom as a result.
The December 11 court hearing was convened three days after Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested in a flat in Kyiv on charges of assisting criminal groups and covering up their activities, and put in a pre-trial detention facility. The ex-President denied the accusations and announced an indefinite hunger strike then.
The prosecution argued at the court hearing that the pre-trial house arrest was necessary for ensuring Mikheil Saakashvili’s security against the Russian security services, who could have murdered Mikheil Saakashvili to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, according to the prosecutor. The position was denounced by the ex-President, whose defense lawyers appealed for his unconditional release.
“What was important was that we did not bow our heads and showed no fear, we did not let them scare others,” Mikheil Saakashvili said in his remarks after the court hearing. “They are not taking into account what’s most important: they can sideline others and me, but they cannot sideline the Ukrainian people, who want real change,” he added.
Mikheil Saakashvili addressed a group of his supporters as well, calling on them to gather at a rally on December 17.
The court hearing drew wide media attention both in Georgia and Ukraine, as well as internationally. Several Verkhovna Rada members appeared at the courtroom as well, and appealed to the judge with a request to free Mikheil Saakashvili.
Simultaneously, few hundred activists of the United National Movement, Mikheil Saakashvili’s party in Georgia staged a protest rally outside the Ukrainian Embassy premises in Tbilisi. UNM leaders reiterated in their messages that Mikheil Saakashvili’s “persecution” was a concerted action of President Petro Poroshenko and Bidzina Ivanishvili (former Prime Minister of Georgia), and warned that if Saakashvili was extradited, the party would take to streets “in thousands” and give “adequate response” to the government.
The ruling party politicians commented on the matter as well, with Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze saying: “We have no political agreement with Ukraine on accelerating the process of Saakashvili’s extradition to Georgia.” “We have no political interest in this respect, since it is exactly thanks to us that Saakashvili is no longer viable in Georgian politics,” Kobakhidze added.
According to the Ukrainian media, the prosecution can challenge the Pechersk Court decision within five days after its announcement. The Court will issue its full judgment on December 14.