“Freedom to Misha” rally : thousands gather to demand the release of Georgia’s ex-president Saakashvili
Supporters of Mikheïl Saakashvili protest in Tbilisi, demand his release from prison
A large-scale protest demanding the release of ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili from prison is going on in Tbilisi on the evening of October 14.
According to journalists’ estimates, about 10,000 people are participating in the protest. Many of them arrived from the regions, as part of the columns of cars.
The activists of the ruling Georgian Dream party tried to block the column’s movement, all with brooms in their hands – for many in Georgia this is a negative symbol of the period of Mikhail Saakashvili’s presidency. In 2012, the change of power in Georgia and the beginning of Saakashvili’s departure occurred after the scandal was sparked by the publication of video materials about sexual violence in prisons with the use of brooms.
Members of the opposition United National Movement party (the party founded by Mikhail Saakashvili) reported that they personally saw employees of various state structures and local authorities among the activists of the Georgian Dream on the highways.
The protest in Tbilisi began at 18:00 with a march from Republic Square to Freedom Square. Due to the large crowd of people, the central Rustaveli Avenue is closed.
A rostrum is placed in the Freedom Square, from which politicians, public figures, journalists and celebrities address the protesters.
Director of the leading opposition Mtavari TV channel Nika Gvaramia read out Mikhail Saakashvili’s address from the rostrum:
“If we want a civilized country, then we definitely need complete reconciliation in the country, refusal of revenge”, the imprisoned ex-president wrote in his address.
The protest was organized by the United National Movement party. But many politicians and leaders of various parties declared their support for the rally and called it symbolic.
“Any person, whether we like him or not, if he has become a victim of injustice, must be protected in this country”, the leader of the Droa (“Time has come”) party, Elena Khoshtaria,said while explaining her decision to join the rally.
Mikhail Saakashvili was arrested on October 1, 2021, when he secretly arrived in Tbilisi after eight years of absence. Immediately after his arrest, he went on a hunger strike.
The ex-president continues his hunger strike for 15 days, considering his arrest illegal and made for political reasons. His personal doctor and lawyers are sounding the alarm and say his condition is worsening.
Several criminal cases have been launched against the third president of Georgia, who has already been convicted in one case and sentenced to six years in prison. In the status of a wanted person, he was transferred to a prison in the city of Rustavi immediately after his arrest.