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Mikheil Saakashvili: Thousands join mass anti-government rally in Georgia

Thousands of protesters rallied outside the Georgian parliament on Sunday amid mounting opposition to the country's government.

Critics accuse the ruling Georgian Dream party of being under the sway of Russia and of backsliding on democracy.

The government has been accused of jailing political opponents and silencing independent media.

The rally was organised by the main opposition party in support of jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr Saakashvili, who served two terms as president between 2004 and 2013, is currently serving a six-year jail term for abuse of power, although international rights groups have condemned his conviction as politically motivated.

Last month, mass protests forced the government to abandon a bill that would have required any non-governmental organisation receiving money from abroad to register as an "agent of foreign influence".

Opponents said the bill was modelled on one introduced in Russia in 2012 to suppress dissent and called it a step towards authoritarianism. The protests saw police use water cannon and pepper spray on attendees.

On Sunday, demonstrators outside the parliament building in capital Tbilisi waved Georgian, Ukrainian and European Union flags and held a huge banner that read: "For a European future".


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