Georgia’s jailed ex-leader starts hunger strike over medical care | News

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Saakashvili accuses the government of failure to provide him with proper medical treatment in prison.

Georgia’s jailed ex-president and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili has renewed a hunger strike to protest against what he said was the government’s failure to provide him with proper medical care.

“Today, I am going on a hunger strike,” Saakashvili told a Tbilisi court on Monday, adding, “my demand is that I be given adequate medical care, as advised by independent doctors”, who diagnosed him with a serious neurological condition resulting from his previous 50-day hunger strike last year.

Georgia’s president from 2004 to 2013, 54-year-old Saakashvili was arrested and jailed on October 1 shortly after he secretly returned to Georgia from exile in Ukraine.

He then refused food for 50 days to protest against his jailing for abuse of office, a conviction he has denounced as politically motivated.

The flamboyant pro-Western reformer called off his hunger strike after he was placed – in a critical condition – in a military hospital in Georgia’s eastern city of Gori.

In December, an independent council of doctors who examined Saakashvili in custody said he had developed serious neurological diseases “as a result of torture, ill-treatment, inadequate medical care, and a prolonged hunger strike”.

Saakashvili supporters hold #freemisha banner in RustaviOpposition supporters take part in a rally to demand Saakashvili’s release [File: Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

On December 30, he returned to prison, which, he and a council of doctors set up by Georgia’s rights ombudsperson have said can not provide him with proper treatment.

He also protested against the prison administration’s decision to ban his personal doctor from visiting him in custody.

Saakashvili’s arrest exacerbated a political crisis stemming from 2020 parliamentary polls that the opposition denounced as fraudulent. It also spurred the largest anti-government protests in a decade.

Rights groups have accused the Georgian government of using criminal prosecutions to punish political opponents and critical media.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sparked an uproar when he said the government had been forced to arrest Saakashvili because he refused to quit politics.





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