Georgia's former President Mikheil Saakashvili was transferred to a prison hospital Monday after 39 days on hunger strike, according to authorities in Tbilisi.
"In order to prevent the worsening of the health condition of Mikheil Saakashvili and because of an increased risk to [his] safety, he was transferred from prison number 12 to medical facility number 18 for inmates," Georgia's prison service said in a statement released on Monday.
Saakashvili had been seeking admission to a civilian hospital, and earlier on Monday doctors who examined him determined he was, "at high risk of systemic complications and needs to be urgently treated in a... high-tech clinic."
Saakashvili's partner, Ukrainian parliamentarian Liza Yasko, said, "He has been transferred to the most dangerous place for his life," referring to the prison hospital.
Nona Mamulashvili, a member of Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, said his whereabouts were still unconfirmed. "His family were supposed to see him today. His children and his mother and his doctor. For two hours they [were] waiting to get access to his room, but it turned out that he was already removed from the prison," Mamulashvili said.
Why is Saakashvili in jail?
Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013, was arrested on October 1, just hours after returning to the country from Ukraine. The politician had returned to rally supporters to vote in the country's October 2, nationwide municipal elections.
At the time, Saakashvili, who founded the UNM, told supporters, "I risked my life and freedom to be back."
Upon news of his rumored arrival, Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the former president would be "immediately arrested and brought to prison" if he set foot on Georgian soil.
Seen as a pro-Western reformer, Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013 when his second term in office ended.
In 2018, he was convicted in absentia for a number of fraud-related charges and sentenced to six years in jail. He decried the move as politically motivated and maintained his innocence throughout.
The day after Saakashvili's October arrest, Garibashvili's ruling Georgian Dream party went on to win 46.7% of votes, compared with 30.7% for the UNM, Georgia's largest opposition party.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) viewed the vote as flawed, citing "widespread and consistent allegations of intimidation, vote-buying, pressure on candidates and voters and an unlevel playing field."
Is there any chance Saakashvili will be released?
Since his arrest, Saakashvili's supporters have rallied in the capital and outside the prison where he is being detained to call for his freedom.
In mid-October more than 70,000 Georgians signed a petition demanding his release. Still, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has remained obstinate, declaring, "No one on the planet can convince us to release Saakashvili."
The government of Georgia, he said, has no intention of releasing jailed ex-president before the end of his six-year sentence, even raising the prospect of fresh charges if he did not "behave."
Prime Minister Garibashvili claims "inmate Saakashvili's sole goal is to stir up destabilization and upheaval in the country." Western governments have condemned the crackdown on Saakashvili by the ruling Georgian Dream party as a witch hunt and Interpol has repeatedly turned down requests for his arrest in the past.
Garibashvili recently raised eyebrows by remarking that Saakashvili had "the right to commit suicide" through his hunger strike and that the government had been forced to arrest him because he refused to quit politics.
After leaving Georgia in 2013, Saakashvili became part of the political establishment in Ukraine, initially working closely with former President Petro Poroshenko before their relationship soured.
Saakashvili, who became governor of Odessa, eventually saw his Ukrainian citizenship revoked by Poroshenko, leaving him stateless. When Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power in Ukraine, Saakashvili's fortunes shifted once again. At the time of his arrest, he was serving as an anti-corruption adviser to the Ukrainian leader.
js/fb (AFP, Reuters)