Thousands of rallies in Georgia are demanding the release of Saakashvili

TBILISI, October 14 (Reuters) – Thousands of flag-waving supporters of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, imprisoned after returning from exile this month, protested in Tbilisi on Thursday to demand his release when his lawyer called on them to help save the country.

The rally attracted most protesters since pro-Western Saakashvili’s arrest on October 1 for abuse of power and covert evidence when he was president, accusations that he says are politically motivated. Read more

Saakashvili’s lawyer read a statement from him from the stage when the audience gathered in the city center.

“It’s time to save Georgia now, that’s why we must be together … This cargo of evil, betrayal and oppression will surely fall,” the ex-president wrote, referring to the old city destroyed by war.

Many Georgian national flags were seen above the crowd, with some flags from the European Union and Ukraine, where Saakashvili lived before returning to his homeland.

Saakashvili, president until 2013, led the 2003 Rosen Revolution, which ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze. He is a figure for some in the opposition, but mocked as a clown by opponents of the ruling party in the Georgian Dream.

Protester Misha Mshvildadze said: “This is not justice for what is happening to him, this is a political vendetta.”

The day after Saakashvili’s arrest, the opposition National United Movement, founded by the former president, received 30.7% support in local elections and lost to the Georgian Dream party, which won 46.7%.

Nika Melia, President of the UNM, will take part in the second round of Tbilisi’s mayoral election on 30 October.

Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili and Maria Tsvetkova; Edited by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams

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