Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

Activists (R) gather opposite security personnel during a mass march and rally calling for the impeachment of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko organized by "Movement Of The New Forces" which is headed by former Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili in Kiev on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

KIEV: Thousands of supporters of deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili marched through the streets of Kiev on Sunday, demanding the impeachment of the Ukrainian President.
An AFP correspondent saw some 10,000 people taking part in the rally, though the ministry of internal affairs put the number at around 3,000 participants.
Protesters carried banners portraying president Petro Poroshenko with a red line drawn over his face. The demonstrators chanted “Impeachment!,” “Resignation!” and “Poroshenko is a thief!“
Former Georgian President Saakashvili, 50, who had been living in exile in Ukraine, was detained by masked men at a restaurant in central Kiev and deported to Poland on Monday.
The state border guard service said he had been residing in Ukraine “illegally” and was sent to the country where he initially came from.
On Tuesday, Saakashvili gave a press conference in Warsaw and said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter to Kiev international airport.
On Wednesday an opposition leader, who is married to a Dutch woman, arrived in the Netherlands.
Kiev resident Galina Zagoruiko, one of the angry protesters on Sunday, said; “people can’t stand it anymore — that nothing changes and everything just gets worse.”
As many others, she had come to support a political party founded by Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, was once an ally of Poroshenko, but then became one of his greatest foes.
Kiev accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — a charge he strongly denies.
Ukraine stripped Saakashvili of his passport, but he nonetheless continued to challenge the government, organizing frequent protests demanding Poroshenko’s ouster.
With the help of his supporters, he broke through the Polish-Ukrainian border in September last year, and was briefly detained in December in Kiev.
Saakashvili is wanted by the Georgian government on multiple criminal charges, which he says are politically motivated.


Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, right, is helped off a prisoner truck upon his arrival at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

  • Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature

PHNOM PEHN, Cambodia: An Australian filmmaker was awaiting deportation from Cambodia on Saturday after receiving a royal pardon for his conviction on spying charges for flying a drone over a political rally.
A spokesman for immigration police said that James Ricketson will be deported on Saturday morning, a day after being released from prison.
“We are now checking a flight for him,” Gen. Keo Vanthan told The Associated Press.
Ricketson, 69, was sentenced to six years in a trial his sympathizers described as farcical because prosecutors never specified whom he was spying for and failed to present evidence that he possessed or transmitted any secrets. He had been detained without bail since June last year in harsh conditions.
He was arrested after flying a drone to photograph a rally of the Cambodian National Rescue Party — the only credible opposition party that was later dissolved by the courts at the instigation of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
His pardon is the latest in a series of releases of political prisoners after the ruling party’s landslide victory in a July election that critics and observers said was deeply flawed.
Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature.
His Aug. 31 conviction was met with only lukewarm public concern from Australia’s prime minister and foreign minister. Their public stance was criticized, but also led to speculation that an understanding might have been reached with Cambodian authorities for Ricketson’s early release.
Ricketson’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, said Friday that his client would go first to Phnom Penh and then travel to Australia.
“James will go back to his home country after he is released, but later he will be back to Cambodia because the pardon letter doesn’t bar him from re-entering Cambodia,” he said. However, there is no official statement guaranteeing he will be readmitted.
Ricketson had said during his trial that he wished to re-establish a project that he had launched before his arrest to buy some land to resettle several poor Cambodian families who have been living at a garbage dump. He and several character witnesses had testified that he provided financial assistance to several poverty stricken Cambodians.