Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike for 40 days, was transferred from the Rustavi prison to the prison hospital in Tbilisi, Georgian authorities said. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed disappointment that Kiev had not been informed of this fact. Saakashvili has Ukrainian citizenship. Thousands of people took to the streets of Tbilisi on Monday in solidarity with the former president.
Georgian portal apsny.ge wrote on Monday, citing the mother of the former president, that Mikheil Saakashvili was taken from prison “in an unknown direction”. The website added that some time ago a helicopter appeared over the penitentiary facility, and two armored cars left from there.
Penitentiary officials later reported that Saakashvili had been transferred to a prison hospital in Tbilisi.
Deteriorating health of the former president
The Georgian justice ministry said Saakashvili was hospitalized due to his deteriorating health. Earlier on Monday, his doctor said the medical council unanimously ruled Saakashvili’s need for hospitalization.
“The research shows that all parameters have worsened. There has been a general deterioration of the condition, the council unanimously decided that he must be quickly transported for treatment and diagnosis to a multi-profile clinic” – Saakashvili’s doctor Nikoloz Kipszydze said.
Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said Saakashvili had “physically and verbally insulted” prison hospital workers, reports Interfax-Ukraine. He assured that his ministry wanted the health of the former president to be in good condition.
The “most dangerous” place for Saakashvili
The Ukrainian deputy and private partner of Saakashvili, Jełysaweta Jaśko, announced that his hospitalization was not agreed with his relatives and lawyers, writes Interfax-Ukraine. She estimated that the prison hospital was the “most dangerous” place for his life.
Interfax-Ukraina reports, citing Georgian media, that prisoners in the penitentiary facility to which Saakashvili was transported shouted indecent words at the politician. Prisoners also protest by turning the lights on and off in the cells.
According to media reports, police forces, special forces have been mobilized in front of the prison, there is also a water cannon and several fire engines. Medical equipment was delivered to the hospital, probably including a computed tomography device.
Echo Kawkaza’s website writes that both Saakashvili’s lawyers and the politician “categorically” opposed his transfer to a hospital in Tbilisi. They emphasized that there were no conditions for providing him with medical aid. It was also noted that there were dozens of prisoners in the hospital, including those suffering from mental disorders, and that it was not a safe place for the former president.
“We call on the Georgian side to immediately transport Mikheil Saakashvili to a civilian medical facility where it would be possible to provide appropriate medical care and emergency assistance,” wrote the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev on Monday.
In this case, the ministry submitted an official note to the Georgian diplomacy ministry. Saakashvili’s continued stay in the prison hospital was judged to be “additional risks and pressures that could be avoided on humanitarian grounds”.
Saakashvili’s supporters protest in Tbilisi
40,000 people took to the streets of Tbilisi on Monday in support of Saakashvili.
– A massive and constant protest movement is starting in Georgia, which will not stop until Mikheil Saakashvili is released and early elections are called – Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement, the opposition party of which Saakashvili is the founder, said in front of the crowd. “We will not break up, our protest will be steadfast, but peaceful,” he added.
Protesters marched through the city center towards the prime minister’s office, intending to block the building. According to AFP, all government buildings were cordoned off by security services.
Return to the homeland
On October 1, Saakashvili returned to Georgia to – as he said – mobilize his supporters to participate in the local elections on October 2. On the same day, he was arrested and imprisoned, and the authorities announced that he could not count on pardon or extradition to Ukraine.
The politician returned to Georgia despite the final and binding prison sentences. In the years 2004-2007 and 2008-2013 the president of Georgia was convicted of abuse of power while in office. He himself believes that the criminal cases against him, initiated after opponents from the Georgian Dream party came to power, are politically motivated.
Following the arrest of Saakashvili, now a Ukrainian citizen, began a hunger strike at Rustavi prison; considers himself a political prisoner.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE