Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Mikheil Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013, when he left the country

Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili has been arrested on his return from exile.

The pro-Western Mr Saakashvili led the Caucasus country from 2004 to 2013 but was later convicted in absentia on corruption charges, which he denies.

On Friday he posted a video on Facebook saying he was back in Georgia ahead of local elections on Saturday.

Hours later Georgia's prime minister announced the former president was in custody.

Initially the government denied he had entered the country but then Irakli Gharibashvili announced: "I would like to inform the public that the third president of Georgia, the wanted Mikheil Saakashvili, has been arrested and sent to jail."

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In his video message on Friday, which Mr Saakashvili said was filmed in the Black Sea port city of Batumi, he reportedly said he had "risked my life and freedom to be back".

Despite being abroad for eight years, the former president is still widely seen as a leading opposition figure and has called on supporters to rally in the capital Tbilisi this Sunday.

He has repeatedly urged voters to back the United National Movement (UNM) in Saturday's poll – the main opposition party which he founded – against the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Mr Saakashvili has for the most part lived in Ukraine since leaving Georgia. He renounced his Georgian citizenship in 2015 when he became governor of Ukraine's Odessa region.

Three years later, a Georgian court convicted him of abusing his office and sentenced him to six years in prison – charges he said were politically motivated.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Gharibashvili reportedly vowed to immediately arrest and imprison the former president if he "sets foot on Georgian soil".

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Georgia has been in turmoil since elections last year, which opposition groups allege were rigged

Georgian Dream, which backs Mr Gharibashvili, has been in power since 2012. It narrowly won last year's parliamentary election in a vote opposition groups said was rigged, something Georgian Dream has repeatedly denied.

After the poll, opposition parties refused to take up seats in the parliament, alleging voter fraud. Thousands demonstrated to demand a new election in November, with police firing water cannon at the crowd.

The EU brokered a deal between the government and the opposition in April which saw some opposition parties enter parliament.

Under the agreement, Georgian Dream agreed to hold a snap parliamentary election if it won less than 43% in Saturday's local elections.

But Georgian Dream announced its unilateral withdrawal from the agreement in July.

In a statement published at the time, the US said it was "deeply disturbed and exasperated" by the withdrawal.

"Washington is growing increasingly alarmed about repeated setbacks to Georgia's democratic future," it read.

You may also be interested in:Media caption, In 2015, Mikheil Saakashvili was governor of Odessa and became involved in a heated row with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov