Saakashvili freed by Ukraine court, urges government change

REUTERS

Saakashvili told journalists after the hearing that he plans to continue his political activities with the goal of "constitutional, calm, but very necessary transfer of power in the country", accusing the Ukrainian authorities of corruption and "usurping power".

Outside the courthouse about 200 of Saakashvili's supporters scuffled with police.

Judge Larysa Tsokol made a decision to set Saakashvili free.

Saakashvili was arrested last week in Kiev after an attempt to detain him earlier dramatically failed when supporters swarmed the van where he was being held. Over the weekend and on Monday, supporters rallied across Kiev to demand his release and for the impeachment of president Petro Poroshenko, whom Saakashvili has accused of widespread corruption. On December 9, prosecutors said they would ask a court to place him under house arrest with electronic monitoring pending trial.

Mr Saakashvili was arrested on Friday over allegations that he colluded with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russian Federation to topple President Petro Poroshenko. They also have suggested that Saakashvili's protests are part of a Russian plot against Ukraine. Saakashvili served two terms as president of Georgia from 2004-2013.

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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.

Saakashvili, the 49-year-old leader of Ukraine's Movement of New Forces opposition party, was arrested on December 9 in a Kiev apartment on charges, including a cooperation with a criminal organisation.

"You are jailing your opponents - the way Yanukovych did".

Poroshenko brought Saakashvili and his team to Ukraine in 2015, gave him the Ukrainian citizenship and appointed him as the governor of the Odessa region to use his image as the author of Georgia's successful reforms. He is now a vocal opponent of Poroshenko, an acquaintance from the time when both attended university in Kyiv in the Soviet era.

Around 100 supporters of Saakashvili, the man who pulled Georgia out of Russia's orbit in a 2003 revolution before becoming a governor in Ukraine, gathered outside a security service detention centre shouting "shame" on Friday following his arrest.

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