SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2019
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Saakashvilis protection appeal rejected
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Feb. 5 - Ukrainian opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday said an appeals court rejected his appeal for protection against possible extradition in a decision he said was politically motivated, Reuters reported.

The former president of Georgia entered Ukraine last September despite being stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in a protracted standoff with the Kiev authorities, whom he accuses of corruption.

He is wanted in Georgia on four charges including abuse of office, which he says are trumped up. The Ukrainian court upheld an earlier ruling to deny him the status of a person in need of additional protection.

This is yet another decision by (President Petro Poroshenko) and not by the court, Saakashvili said in a post on Facebook after the verdict. "With this [ruling] I am losing the status of a resident in Ukraine."

His lawyer, Ruslan Chernolutsky, said the ruling would likely pave the way for Saakashvilis departure from Ukraine.

We all need to be prepared for the fact that the authorities in an illegal manner will take the decision on his compulsory deportation or possible extradition, he said in a video posted by Saakashvili.

In December, General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said Saakashvili was likely to be extradited.

Saakashvili also faces criminal charges in Ukraine. The authorities accuse him of assisting a criminal organization, which he calls a fabricated allegation to undermine his campaign to unseat Poroshenko.

Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia from 2004-2013, is wanted there on charges including abuse of office, which he says are fabricated.

Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015, when he accepted Ukrainian citizenship and Poroshenko's offer of a job as governor of the Odesa region.

But he resigned from the post in November 2016, accusing the government of undermining his efforts to fight corruption and carry out reforms.

In July 2017, Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship while he was abroad.

In September, Saakashvili defied a border blockade and crossed back into Ukraine, where he has been leading anti-Poroshenko protests and taking on the state in a series of court cases.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Saakashvili of abetting an alleged "criminal group" led by Yanukovych, and claim the protests he has led are part of a Russian plot against the government in Kyiv.

Saakashvili has denied all the charges, calling them "absurd" and politically motivated.

In December, Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said Saakashvili was likely to be extradited to Georgia.

On January 5, a Tbilisi court found him guilty of abuse of power, ruling that he tried to cover up evidence about a 2006 murder case, and sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison. (rt/ez)

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