Former President Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested after returning to Georgia, the government said Friday, a move that came as the ex-leader sought to rally supporters ahead of national municipal elections seen as critical for the country's political makeup.
The announcement by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili came about 18 hours after Saakashvili, who was convicted in absentia on abuse of power charges and has lived in Ukraine in recent years, posted on Facebook that he was back in the country.
Saakashvili was president in 2004-13 and was renowned for his energetic efforts against Georgia’s endemic corruption, but Georgians became increasingly uneasy with what they saw as his authoritarian inclinations and his sometimes-mercurial behavior.
He had come to power in the Rose Revolution demonstrations that drove the previous president, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, to resign.
Saakashvilii left the country soon after the 2013 election, in which he could not run, was won by the candidate from the opposition Georgian Dream party.
In 2018, Georgian courts convicted and sentenced him to up to six years in prison.
Saakashvili moved to Ukraine, where he became governor of the corruption-plagued Odesa region, and obtained Ukrainian citizenship, which nullified his Georgian citizenship. However, he fell out with then-President Petro Poroshenko, resigned his post and was stripped of Ukrainian citizenship.
He forced his way back into Ukraine in 2017, but was eventually deported to Poland. After Poroshenko's successor Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power, Saakashvili returned to Ukraine and was named to a top corruption-fighting position.