Ex-president Saakashvili's health worsens in prison - here's what we know so far
Mikheil Saakashvili’s health deteriorated
The state of health of imprisoned ex-president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, has worsened. This is stated by the council of doctors under the supervision of the Public Defender of Georgia. Saakashvili’s family asks for ex-president to be transferred for treatment abroad by 18:00 on May 2. The government claims that the prisoner is being treated properly and the possibility of his release is not even considered.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been in custody for seven months. The ex-president was arrested after he secretly returned to Georgia on October 1, 2021.
The former president of Georgia was brought to the 12th penitentiary facility in the city of Rustavi. He considers himself a political prisoner, so during this time he went on hunger strike twice in protest. His first hunger strike lasted 51 days.
Due to the hunger strike, Mikhail Saakashvili’s health deteriorated so much that he needed medical treatment. He was taken to the Gori military hospital.
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Last week, the conclusion of a group of doctors created by the Public Defender of Georgia was published, which stated that the ex-president was still in serious condition.
This was also said by members of his family, lawyers and members of the same party. They demand to transfer Mikheil Saakashvili for medical treatment abroad.
The government does not trust the ombudsman’s report and calls the comments of the ex-president’s associates a manipulation. The penitentiary service claims that Mikheil Saakashvili receives all the necessary services provided by the protocol.
What do we know now about the health of the imprisoned president?
Today, May 2, the trial of the former President of Georgia in the case of the dispersal of the rally on November 7, 2007 is being held in the Tbilisi City Court. The accused was unable to attend the trial. According to lawyers, Mikheil Saakashvili can hardly move.
During one of the last court hearings, which took place on April 20, Mikheil Saakashvili became ill right in the courtroom. He sought medical attention. The trial on the case of illegal border crossing by the ex-president has been temporarily suspended.
On April 27, the conclusion of the group of experts created by the Public Defender was published, which stated that Mikheil Saakashvili was suffering from a protein malnutrition:
“Although Mikheil Saakashvili is not currently officially on a hunger strike, unlike his previous hunger strike, he is losing weight due to the loss of muscle mass (protein). At present, the patient’s condition can be characterized as protein starvation (caused by anorexia)”.
According to the doctor – a member of the council, Saakashvili consumes about 1/4 of the daily calorie intake, causing his body to “eat itself”. This may be associated with persistent post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which eventually led to anorexia or loss of appetite.
Dr. Sopho Japaridze, a member of the opposition United National Movement faction of the Tbilisi City Council, told JAMnews that this is not a deliberate hunger strike, and Saakashvili cannot eat, especially protein foods, he starts to feel sick:
“There are amino acids in proteins that our body cannot synthesize on its own, they must be taken from outside. When you cannot get it from outside, you start wasting it from your own body. That’s why muscle atrophy started.”
According to Sopho Japaridze, in such a situation people move with difficulty, lose weight, and get tired quickly:
“Which is expressed even in the case of the president. He himself asked not to let him have more than one visitor a day.
Outwardly, the ex-president looks noticeably worse than before – he looks weak and pale (this can be seen in the footage from the courtroom), has lost weight and often gets tired during a conversation.
What does Mikhail Saakashvili need?
The conclusion of the consultation states that Mikheil Saakashvili needs timely comprehensive neuro-psychological and physical rehabilitation:
“Otherwise, such a significant restriction of food intake, and in particular – protein starvation – will inevitably lead to a significant loss of muscle and organic mass, a higher risk of infections and disruption of the functioning of internal systems”.
According to Sopho Japaridze, the imprisoned ex-president should be immediately transferred to a multidisciplinary clinic, preferably abroad:
“We have little experience in treating such a disease in Georgia. He needs the supervision of many doctors.”
On April 30, Georgian medical associations appealed to friendly governments, the diplomatic corps, the Council of Europe and the US Congress with a call to use all possible levers to put pressure on the Georgian authorities in order to take Saakashvili abroad:
“The political prisoner Saakashvili is doomed to further disability and a sharp decline in his ability to work. President Saakashvili urgently needs a course of treatment and further rehabilitation in a specialized Western clinic. Even a slight delay can be fatal to his life”, the medical appeal says.
Sopho Japaridze says she is already negotiating with several European clinics. She does not name clinics yet, so as not to interfere with the process, however, she says that these institutions are ready to accept the patient.
Last week, Sopo Japaridze turned to the Public Defender of Georgia for help. This week she plans to contact the embassies and try to contact the government.
Last week, the US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan urged the Georgian authorities to take the Ombudsman’s recommendations “attentively and seriously”.
What are the authorities saying?
On April 29, after the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, the Special Penitentiary Service announced that it was providing Mikheil Saakashvili with all the services provided for in the protocol:
“The Penitentiary Service fully provides Mikheil Saakashvili with medicines corresponding to his state of health. However, despite the recommendation of the medical staff, he does not take some of the drugs prescribed to him”, the Penitentiary Service said in a statement.
The department clarified that the convict was provided with three meals a day, he can buy food in the prison store, where there is a wide range of goods, he also receives parcels: “hence, a variety of food rations is fully available to the convict”.
In light of these circumstances, the Prison Service stated that they have questions about the Ombudsman’s report.
The Government of Georgia does not trust the conclusions of the Ombudsman either.
“We heard that the prisoner was deprived of some comfort. All prisoners are dieprived of some comfort because they have limited freedom. This is natural”, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in response to a correspondent’s question about whether the authorities would consider transferring the ex-president abroad.
“He does not show any signs of depression, he plans huge actions, makes appeals, sings the anthem and looks quite active and energetic”, said Gia Volsky, First Vice Speaker of the Parliament. He believes that Mikheil Saakashvili’s health is not in danger, “unless he inflicts artificial harm on himself”.
What can happen next?
Sopo Japaridze says that without proper treatment, Mikheil Saakashvili’s condition will worsen and undesirable consequences will follow.
Today, May 2, one of Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyers Nika Gvaramia appealed to the judge with a petition for Saakashvili’s immediate transfer from prison.
“He won’t be able to recover, it’s out of the question, it’s an ongoing process,” Gvaramia told the judges.
The judges [the case is being heard by three judges on November 7] did not grant the lawyer’s request. However, they stated that they would apply to the Penitentiary Service in writing with a request to provide additional information about Saakashvili’s state of health.
Today, May 2, at 18:00, the deadline given to the Georgian authorities by the ex-president’s family to transfer Saakashvili abroad expires. If this does not happen, the family promises to organize protests.
The Batumi office of the “United National Movement” plans to start actions on May 6.
“We do not have and will not have time to watch Mikheil Saakashvili die a slow death,” said party leader Nika Melia, who once again appealed to Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to pardon Mikheil Saakashvili.
Salome Zurabishvili does not change her position on this matter – her answer is still “No and never.”
So far, the position of the Penitentiary Service has not changed either. The Minister of Justice of Georgia said today that after receiving answers to questions regarding the conclusion of the council of doctors, they will decide whether “any measures are required.”
The agency calls Saakashvili’s statements about the serious state of health a slander campaign.
“His extradition (abroad) and release are out of question. Once again, if someone demands the release or transfer of Saakashvili somewhere, then everyone is driven by one goal – to drag Georgia into the war. We will not fall for such statements,” said Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party.
In his words, “it’s simple”:
“Why you can eat chocolate before meals, but not cottage cheese, I cannot go into these details. Make him eat eggs and cottage cheese, and the problem will disappear”.