Oct 4, 2021 - World

Ex-president Saakashvili jailed in Georgia

Mikheil Saakashvili

Saakashvili. Photo: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili remains in jail after returning to the country ahead of municipal elections on Sunday despite having been sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for alleged abuse of office.

Driving the news: The U.S. State Department Monday urged Georgian authorities to “ensure that Mr. Saakashvili is afforded fair treatment.” Georgian authorities, meanwhile, have been attempting to signal that international pressure will have no effect.

  • "No one on the planet can convince us to release Saakashvili," Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said, adding that "he better behave or we will bring against him fresh charges and others will join him."
  • President Salome Zurabishvili said she would “never pardon” him.

The backstory: Saakashvili dominated Georgian politics from 2004 to 2013 and was praised for his political and economic reforms but criticized for his authoritarian tendencies. Once in exile, the larger-than-life figure established himself as a political player in Ukraine.

  • He has also been the leading antagonist of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which is steered from behind the scenes by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili and has overseen several years of democratic backsliding.
  • Saakashvili’s United National Movement party rejected the results of the elections, which were won by Georgian Dream, and international observers also expressed some concerns.

What to watch: This crisis could be too much for Georgia's crumbling democratic institutions to handle, Carl Bildt writes in the Washington Post.

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