Hundreds rally outside prison for Georgia’s former president

RUSTAVI, Georgia (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators rallied Monday outside a prison where former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been held since his arrest after returning to the country last week.

Saakashvili, who left Georgia in 2014 and became a Ukrainian citizen, was later sentenced to up to six years in prison on abuse of power convictions handed down in absentia.

He came back to the country with the aim of galvanizing opposition as Georgia held nationwide municipal elections, and was arrested hours after posting videos Friday on social media announcing that he was back.

The United National Movement, which Saakashvili founded, is the most prominent political force opposing the governing Georgian Dream party.

Georgian Dream won 47% of the vote in the weekend municipal elections, well ahead of the 31% received by UNM.

“While Mikheil Saakashvili is in prison, each of us is a prisoner,” UNM chairman Nika Melia said at Monday’s protest in Rustavi, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital Tbilisi.