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Georgia: Saakashvili ends hunger strike

November 19, 2021

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was on hunger strike for more than a month and a half after being jailed for abuse of power.

Mikheil Saakashvili at a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2021
Saakashvili has been transferred to a military hospitalImage: Evgen Kotenko/Avalon/Photoshot/picture alliance

Georgia's ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili ended his 50-day hunger strike on Saturday after he was moved to a military hospital.

Saakashvili launched the hunger strike after being imprisoned upon his return from exile in Ukraine on October 1, claiming his arrest was political. On Thursday, he fainted and was placed in an intensive care ward.

Georgia's human rights commissioner warned Saakashvili may soon face various health complications. A doctor who examined him said that he risked death from heart failure, internal bleeding and coma if he was not transferred to an intensive care unit.

Saakashvili was transferred to a hospital in the city of Gori, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of the capital Tbilisi.

His personal doctor, Nokoloz Kipshidze, said "Saakashvili formally called off his hunger strike right after he was transferred to the Gori military hospital."

How did Saakashviili end up in prison?

Saakashvili was Georgia's president between 2004 and 2013. After leaving Georgia in 2013, Saakashvili became the governor of Odessa under former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. His relationship with Poroshenko later soured and his Ukrainian citizenship was revoked.

Later, Saakashvili became an anti-corruption advisor under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvii demonstrating with Georgian flags and banners
Supporters took to the streets in support of the jailed SaakashviliImage: Shakh Aivazov/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Ahead of last month's local elections in Georgia, the politician secretly returned to his native country and urged his supporters to take to the streets to "protect the vote results." He was quickly detained and now faces up to six years in prison following his 2018 in absentia conviction for abuse of power.

US wants Saakashvili to be treated 'fairly'

Saakashvili's arrest has deepened the crisis that erupted after last year's parliamentary elections, which the opposition denounced as fraudulent.

The 53-year-old's lawyer Dito Sadzaglishvili said the country's prison service was "guided by political motives, rather than medical considerations."

"The government is denying Saakashvili his right to proper medical care," he said.

A spokesman of the United States Department of State, Ned Price, urged Georgian authorities to "treat Mr. Saakashvili fairly and with dignity."

Last month, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili prompted outrage by saying that Saakashvili "has the right to commit suicide." Garibashvili also said the authorities were doing everything they could to ensure proper treatment.

cj, dj, sdi/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)