Arrest came as ex-leader sought to mobilize supporters ahead of national municipal elections seen as critical to the country’s political makeup.

Former President Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested after returning to Georgia, the government said Friday, a move that came as the ex-leader sought to mobilize supporters ahead of national municipal elections seen as critical to the country’s political makeup, the Associated Press reported.

The announcement by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili came hours after Saakashvili, who was convicted in absentia on abuse of power charges and has lived in Ukraine in recent years, posted on Facebook that he was back in the country.

Details of the arrest were not immediately clear, but Georgian TV on Friday evening broadcast video of Saakashvili in handcuffs, with a wide smile on his face, being taken into custody by police.

In earlier Facebook video, Saakashvili said he was in Batumi, the Black Sea port and resort that is Georgia’s second-largest city. Georgian officials earlier in the day had denied he was in the country.

In the posts, Saakashvili said Saturday’s elections were “crucial” for Georgia and had called for a rally in Tbilisi on Sunday, promising to join it.

Saakashvili’s attempts to rally Georgians could upend the ruling party’s plans to secure dominance in the balloting for mayors and local assemblies that is widely regarded as a vote of confidence in the national government and could trigger early elections next year.

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