Judge Frees Saakashvili From Detention
12 December, 2017

Former Georgian president and ex-Odesa region governor Mikheil Saakashvili has been freed from detention after a nine-hour hearing at Kyiv’s Pechersk District court.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE/Dmytro Replianchuk

The Georgian-Ukrainian politician was released after judge Larysa Tsokul decided late on December 11 that there was no reason to place Saakashvili under house arrest or other pre-trial restrictions during the course of a criminal investigation into his finances.

The Ukrainian authorities accuse Saakashvili of receiving $500,000 from Serhiy Kurchenko, a fugitive Ukrainian oligarch and an ally to ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. As evidence, the Prosecutor General's office has provided video and audio tapes allegedly featuring conversations between Kurchenko and Saakashvili, during which the men discuss cooperation.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE/Dmytro Replianchuk

On December 8, Saakashvili was detained and placed in pre-trial detention at the Security Service of Ukraine's headquarters. He immediately announced a hunger strike. In the wake of his detention, Saakashvili’s supporters protested what they believed to be a politically motivated arrest. The politician hinted as much himself after being released from custody today.

“Very brave judge,” Saakashvili said. “I know she will get grilled now. But well done to her, she acted well and according to the law.”

Photo credit: HROMADSKE/Dmytro Replianchuk

“First they saw a huge crowd of people outside and today the judge didn’t agree to [the Ukrainian authorities’] clear-cut commands. So not all is lost on Ukraine yet,” he added.

READ MORE: UPDATING: Ukraine Detains and Jails Mikheil Saakashvili

As soon as Saakashvili exited the courtroom, he and around 200 of his supporters marched to central Kyiv. He also announced that he was stopping his hunger strike.

After the decision, Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko re-emphasized the need for house arrest in order to be able to carry out the investigation.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE/Dmytro Replianchuk

“We’ve passed on all our evidence to the court, but the judge decides to free him,” he told Ukrainian news agency Interfax. “I’ll just contain my emotions and we will appeal [this decision].”

Lutsenko later told the Ukrainian ICTV channel that he will get international experts involved in order to prove Saakashvili’s guilt.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Saakashvili Wanted By Ukraine's General Prosecutor’s Office

“We are ready to get either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Scotland Yard experts on board so that they, together with our experts, check the legitimacy of these tapes,” he said. “And I am confident that this is what we need and can do.”

Last week, law enforcement attempted to detain Saakashvili, but he was freed after a crowd of his supporters prevented officers from leaving the scene of the detention. Afterward, prosecutors unsuccessfully demanded that Saakashvili surrender himself to the authorities within 24 hours.

/By Maria Romanenko