A Georgian court sentenced former president Mikheil Saakashvili in absentia to three years in prison on January 5 over his alleged involvement in the covering up of the murder of a Georgian banker in 2006, according to Reuters.
Saakashvili, who is currently in Ukraine, has denounced the verdict as "illegal". Georgia said that it will seek his extradition so he can serve his sentence.
The latest charge is the latest in a long series of legal problems that Saakashvili, an outspoken politician in Ukraine and Georgia, has encountered in recent months. After finishing his second presidential term in Georgia in 2013, Saakashvili moved to Ukraine. There, his former university friend, President Petro Poroshenko, offered him the job of governing - and reforming - the Odessa region.
However, the two soon clashed over Poroshenko's alleged harbouring of corrupt leaders, thus preventing Saakashvili's reform drive. The Georgian politician, now a Ukrainian citizen, quit his job and became an active opposition member. Having been stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2015, Saakashvili had his Ukrainian citizenship revoked in 2017 while he was visiting family in the US. After repeated attempts to prevent him from entering Ukraine and arresting him, a Ukrainian court released him from police custody in early December.
The fact that the Poroshenko regime was working with Saakashvili created a schism between Georgia and Ukraine, two nations that are united by their tense relations with Russia. However, the two governments have cooperated on trying to sideline Saakashvili, who has become a persona non grata in both countries.
The Georgian court ruled that Saakashvili abused power by pardoning four men for the murder of Georgian banker Sandro Girgvliani in 2006. In a Facebook post on January 5, the former head of state said that the "verdict is completely illegal and contradicts all international, national norms and common sense".
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office, said that Kyiv would work with Georgia toward Saakashvili's extradition via legal means.
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