Georgian prison hospital treating ex-president ‘violates human rights’, public ombudsman says

Written by on November 9, 2021

November 9, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The prison hospital treating Georgia’s hunger-striking former president Mikheil Saakashvili lacks proper medical equipment and he has been subjected to threats and abuse from fellow inmates, a Georgian human rights official said on Tuesday.

“Particular attention should be paid to the environment in which Mikheil Saakashvili is placed, which grossly violates human rights,” Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, Georgia’s rights ombudsman, said in a statement.

Authorities in the South Caucasus country transferred the 53-year-old Saakashvili to a prison hospital in the capital Tbilisi on Monday, just over five weeks after he declared a hunger strike in jail.

Lomjaria, who visited him the same day, said the hurling of insults and threats from other prisoners “can be heard in Saakashvili’s cell … and clearly represents psychological pressure”.

In a letter published by his lawyers earlier on Tuesday, Saakashvili alleged that prison guards had insulted him, dragged him to the ground, including by his hair, and hit him several times in the neck as he was being transferred.

Saakashvili was arrested on Oct. 1 after returning from exile to Georgia to rally the opposition on the eve of local elections, in what he described as a mission to save the country. He faces six years in prison after being convicted in absentia in 2018 of abusing his office during his 2004-2013 presidency, charges he rejects as politically motivated.

A Georgian court is set to hear his case on Wednesday, RIA news agency reported.

The ombudsman said the prison hospital’s lack of equipment needed to treat Saakashvili “clearly violates the obligation of the state to respect human dignity.”

“It should also be noted that Mikheil Saakashvili continues to be on hunger strike and he refuses to receive proper medication, medical care, minerals or vitamins necessary for the procedures of hunger strike,” the statement said.

Saakashvili is the most prominent and divisive living figure in Georgia’s post-Soviet history, having come to power via a peaceful “Rose Revolution” in 2003 and led the country into a disastrous war with Russia five years later.

His case has drawn thousands of his supporters onto the streets in recent weeks and raised political tensions in the country of 3.7 million people. The state security service accused him at the weekend of plotting a coup.

Georgian authorities have already said that Saakashvili would not be pardoned.

(Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)


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