Saakashvili Freed, Marched Home By Supporters

Saakashvili Freed, Marched Home By Supporters

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has gone on hunger strike to protest his arrest in Ukraine on charges of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russian Federation, his lawyer and supporters said Saturday.

The victorious Saakashvili said after the verdict that he will co-ordinate with other political forces in Ukraine to push for a peaceful change of government.

But he said he "has no presidential ambitions" himself.

Prosecutors had asked to keep Saakashvili under house arrest, but the judge turned it down to the applause of Saakashvili's supporters. Several Verkhovna Rada members appeared at the courtroom as well, and appealed to the judge with a request to free Mikheil Saakashvili. "We will appeal", he told ICTV, a Ukrainian broadcaster.

Saakashvili was detained on December 8 on charges of "aiding members of criminal groups and covering up their criminal activity".

Saakashvili has dismissed the charges against him in both countries as trumped up.

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"I don't consider myself a detainee, I consider myself a prisoner of war", he told journalists before the Monday hearing. He had escaped from custody earlier last week when crowds from a protest he was leading pulled him out of a police van. On December 8, the politician was arrested and placed into a pre-trial detention center in Kiev. They also have suggested that Saakashvili's protests are part of a Russian plot against Ukraine.

"I consider myself a prisoner of Ukrainian oligarchs", he said in an apparent reference to the business background of Poroshenko, who ran a chocolate business before he was elected president.

Inside the courthouse Saakashvili called on his followers to remain calm, saying "we don't want confrontation, we don't want any sharp moves".

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who leads an opposition party, attended the hearing in a show of support for Saakashvili.

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

Poroshenko rewarded Saakashvili for his efforts by appointing him governor of the important Black Sea region of Odessa in 2015.

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