Georgia detains four at rally in support of jailed ex-president - report

Georgia's former President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks with journalists after his meeting with members of Ukraine's Servant of the People parliamentary faction in Kiev, Ukraine April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

MOSCOW, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Police in Georgia detained four protesters on Friday outside a prison holding ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, local media reported, a week after he was jailed after returning from exile and calling for post-election protests.

Saakashvili, who was sentenced in absentia in Georgia in 2018 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, returned to the country ahead of last weekend's municipal elections after spending years abroad.

His supporters staged a rally outside the prison near the capital, Tbilisi. They clashed with police as they tried to paint the words "Freedom for Misha" -- his nickname -- on a fence surrounding the facility, the Sputnik Georgia news outlet reported.

The ex-president's supporters have pledged to continue rallying to call for his release.

Saakashvili declared a hunger strike after being jailed on Oct. 1.

His lawyer said he was in good spirits but that his health had begun to deteriorate and that he had lost a lot of weight, RIA news agency reported on Friday.

Saakashvili, who led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, is a charismatic figurehead for some in the opposition, but is derided as a clown by detractors in the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Georgian Dream won 46.7% at the local elections last weekend, beating the United National Movement opposition party founded by Saakashvili that received 30.7%. read more

Nika Melia, chairman of UNM, is set to take part in the second round of Tbilisi's mayoral election on Oct. 30.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.