Billionaire sues nation of Georgia's government
TBILISI, Georgia—A billionaire in ex-Soviet Georgia has sued authorities for revoking his citizenship and launched a campaign aimed at unseating the nation's pro-Western president.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, a French national and a Forbes-listed magnate worth $5.5 billion, was stripped of his Georgian citizenship after criticizing President Mikhail Saakashvili, whom he accused of a crackdown on the opposition and increasingly authoritarian policies.
A court in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, started hearings Monday in Ivanishvili's case.
On Sunday, Ivanishvili also launched Georgian Dream, a public movement he says will challenge Saakashvili's rule and push for a free-and-fair parliamentary election next year and the presidential vote in 2013.
Saakashvili, who has been president since 2004, has sought to steer Georgia toward joining the European Union and NATO. He has been credited with economic and anti-corruption reforms, but opponents have accused him of stifling media freedom and sidelining the opposition, and criticized his handling of Georgia's disastrous 2008 war with Russia.
Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in banking and retail businesses in Russia, claims he supported and funded the 2003 Rose Revolution protests that brought Saakashvili to power. The billionaire said the Georgian Dream movement will overcome the "nihilism and pessimism" among average Georgians dissatisfied with Saakashvili's policies.
Georgian opposition leaders hailed Ivanishvili's political aspirations and said their groups will support his movement.