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Mikheil Saakashvili: Georgia court rejects release bid

February 6, 2023

The former president has staged multiple hunger strikes while in prison and was seeking permission to get better medical treatment abroad.

Georgia's jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili lifts his shirt to show the weight loss he suffered during imprisonment, Feb 1, 2023
Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters have persistently demanded that he gets better medical treatmentImage: IRAKLI GEDENIDZE/REUTERS

A Georgian court on Monday rejected an appeal to release former President Mikheil Saakashvili from prison on health grounds.

Saakashvili appeared at a court hearing last week via video link in which he lifted his shirt to show the kind of weight loss he suffered during his time in prison. 

He was arrested in 2021 on charges of abusing his power as president between 2004 and 2013, which he denies.

Several European officials have called for his release, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy vowing to ensure his release. 

Saakashvili is a Ukrainian citizen.

Saakashvili's team argues for early release over poor health conditions

Citing his medical records, Saakashvili's team said last week that his weight by the end of January had dropped to 68 kilograms (150 pounds) from 115 kilograms (254 pounds) when he was imprisoned in October 2021.

His supporters says authorities are denying him proper treatment. Georgian officials say he is feigning the gravity of his condition to secure an early release.

Saakashvilli served two terms as Georgia's president between 2004 and 2013 and led the so-called Rose Revolution anti-government protests that first swept him to power.

He then went into exile after giving up power. In 2018, he was convicted twice in absentia in cases that included abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison.

In 2021, the pro-Western leader made a surprise return to Georgia, ahead of nationwide municipal elections. He was arrested shortly after and went on hunger strikes to protest against his imprisonment.

rm/rt (Reuters, AFP)