Ukrainian court released Mikhail Saakashvili

nsnbc : A Ukrainian court has released opposition figure Mikheil Saakashvili from detention. Former Georgian president and former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region Mikhail Saakashvili is accused by prosecutors of assisting a criminal organization.

Saakashvili re-entering Ukraine September 2017 (archives)

Saakashvili re-entering Ukraine September 2017 (archives)

Prosecutors in Ukraine had sought to place Saakashvili under house arrest, but a judge on December 11 turned down the request. Saakashvili told reporters after the hearing that he planned to continue his political activities with the aim of “constitutional, calm, but very necessary transfer of power in the country.” Saakashvili, a fugitive from justice in Georgia, is accusing the Ukrainian authorities of corruption and “usurping power,” while he claims that he “has no presidential ambitions” himself.

Judge Larysa Tsokol told Kyiv’s Pechera district court that the prosecutors’ request to put Saakashvili under house arrest pending trial was “dismissed,” prompting applause by Saakashvili’s supporters in the courtroom. Saakashvili praised the judge’s ruling as “courageous,” and said, “It means not everything is lost in Ukraine.” Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko later said on ICTV that he will appeal the judge’s ruling.

Ukraine’s Justice Ministry is reportedly still weighing an extradition request from Georgia for the former Georgian president to face criminal charges related to his years in power there. Saakashvili has dismissed the charges against him in both countries as trumped up and politically motivated. “I don’t consider myself a detainee, I consider myself a prisoner of war,” he told journalists before the December 11 hearing.

A crowd of about 200 Saakashvili supporters earlier scuffled with police outside the court. Saakashvili was detained late on December 8, after an initial attempt to place him in custody failed on December 5 when supporters crowded around a police vehicle where he was being held after a raid on his apartment and freed him. On December 9, prosecutors said they would ask a court to place him under house arrest with electronic monitoring pending trial. On December 10, thousands of people demonstrated in central Kyiv to demand Saakashvili’s release and to call for the impeachment or resignation of President Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrainian authorities claim Saakashvili is suspected of abetting an alleged “criminal group” led by former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after his ouster in February 2014. They also have suggested that Saakashvili’s protests are part of a Russian plot against Ukraine. Calling himself Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “biggest enemy in the post-Soviet space,” Saakashvili said that his accusers “must be nuts.”

F/AK – nsnbc 12.12.2017

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