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Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2018

Ukraine deported Saakashvili

nsnbc : Ukraine has deported Mikhail Saakashvili, leader of Ukraine’s New Forces Party, former Odessa region governor and ex-Georgian President to Poland after he was arrested at a Kiev restaurant Monday afternoon.

Mikhail Saakashvili arrest, Feb 12, 2018_Ukraine, KievThe news about Saakashvili’s deportation to Poland was conveyed by a State Border Service spokesman on February 12. Saakashvili was arrested at the Suluguni restaurant at 10 Muzeiny Lane in Kiev at about 15:00 Kiev time on Monday when law enforcement and border service personnel in plain clothes and uniform stormed the premises.

Footage of the arrest – containing pretty foul language - was disseminated on social media after it  was published on Saakashvili’s Facebook account. Saakashvili’s press office stated that “armed men had hit him in the face, threatened to shoot at him and put him down on the floor of a bus”.

Mikhail Saakashvili’s deportation comes after several Ukrainian court rulings against the former governor. There have among others been disputes about whether his Ukrainian citizenship was “stripped” or if it was “suspended”, or whether or not he could be extradited to Georgia where he is wanted. The court hearings and debates focused on such technicalities while many say the reason Saakashvili is being targeted is that he fell out with President Petro Poroshenko.

Saakashvili re-entering Ukraine September 2017

Saakashvili re-entering Ukraine September 2017, with a little help from his friends.

Ukraine’s State Border Service (SBS) is careful not to say Saakashvili was extradited. SBS spokesman Oleh Slobodyan stated on his Facebook page that Saakashvili was arrested by SBS officers, the State Migration Service, and regular police officers.

Avoiding the term extradition, he said Saakashvili was sent “to the country from which he came”. Saakashvili had crossed the border from Poland to Ukraine in September 2017. Supporters helped him to cross the border despite the presence of border service officers trying to stop or detain him.

Slobodyan added that Saakashvili was deported because the Ukrainian courts refused to grant him refugee status. It was not immediately clear when the 50-year-old former Georgian president left Ukraine. In the immediate aftermath of his arrest, Saakashvili’s New Forces party issued a statement claiming that “unknown persons in masks have captured and taken Mikheil Saakashvili to an unknown location.”

A Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) spokeswoman denied that the SBU was involved in Saakashvili’s detention. A spokeswoman for the General Prosecutor’s Office said that “today’s events relating to Saakashvili are outside the purview of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine.”

Saakashvili’s lawyers have previously argued that their client could not be legally deported or extradited regardless of his asylum status, since it is unlawful to deport or extradite permanent stateless residents of Ukraine. Saakashvili also could not be extradited or deported under the law because he was under investigation in a criminal case in Ukraine, they said.

Under Ukrainian law, forced deportation or extradition is only possible if there is a specific court warrant for deportation or extradition. Even in that case, such a ruling can be appealed against within 30 days, and extradition or deportation can only happen after the appeals court has made its ruling. No such rulings on deportation or extradition for Saakashvili have been presented by the authorities.

It could be argued that Saakashvili’s deportation or extradition would also be illegal during the next appeal stage because his lawyers have filed an appeal against the February 5 ruling on asylum with the Supreme Court and because his current residence permit from the State Migration Service is valid until March 1, Saakashvili’s lawyer Ruslan Chernolutsky said on February 6.

Saakashvili and his supporters also argued that he could not be expelled from the country because the cancellation of his Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko in July contradicted Ukrainian and international law, the Constitution and due process. His lawyers said that his extradition or deportation was impossible before a court decided on the legality of the cancellation of his citizenship. However, the jury is still out on whether his citizenship was cancelled or suspended.

In October and November, seven Georgian associates of Saakashvili were deported to Georgia by Ukrainian authorities without court warrants, with the Georgians claiming they had been kidnapped and beaten. Human Rights Ombudsman Valeria Lutkovska said in November that three of the Georgians had been illegally kidnapped and deported by the National Police without court warrants. The authorities denied accusations of wrongdoing, but failed to present the legal grounds for the deportations.

F/AK – nsnbc 13.02.2018

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