A number of people in western Georgian cities are standing along the highway with brooms to protest the United National Movement (UNM) rally in Tbilisi later today, where demonstrators will demand the release of former president Mikheil Saakashvili from prison.
Dozens of demonstrators in Kutaisi and Samtredia, in western Georgia, have been blocking the central highway for some time to prevent the passage of a motorcade of UNM supporters from the Samegrelo region to Tbilisi to join the rally.
The UNM says that about 5,000 people will join their rally in Tbilisi from western Georgia later today, and accused the Georgian Dream party activists of creating problems for them in reaching their destination.
The counter-rally demonstrators say Saakashvili must serve his sentence, and that the broom, used to torture prisoners under the UNM government, ‘is a symbol of the party and Saakashvili’s regime.’
They say that Saakashvili and his party ‘are behind multiple crimes’ and that they must be held accountable.
The Droa and Law & Justice opposition parties will join the UNM rally today, while the majority of opposition parties, including those which say that Saakashvili ‘is a political prisoner,’ have refused to participate.
Saakashvili, who was arrested in Tbilisi on October 1, just ahead of Georgia’s municipal elections, has called on the public to join the UNM rally.
This is not the UNM’s rally. This is a rally of the Georgian people against oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili [founder of Georgian Dream] who is running the country from behind the curtain,” Saakashvili averred late yesterday.
He says that he is a ‘personal prisoner’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin and of Ivanishvili, ‘who is Russia’s man.’
Saakashviili returned to Georgia after eight years in political exile to support his UNM party in the October 2 municipal elections and replace the current Georgian Dream government, as he says, via snap parliamentary elections.
The ex-president, who is a citizen of Ukraine and chairs the Executive Committee of the Ukrainian National Reforms Council, wishes to be released from prison before municipal election run-offs on October 30.
Saakashvili was convicted in Georgia in absentia in 2018 and was sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of authority.
He has also been charged with four other offences related to the illegal seizure of property, embezzlement, illegal rally dispersal, and illegal border-crossing.