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Georgia’s jailed ex-leader in new hunger strike

TBILISI (AFP) – Georgia’s jailed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili went on a new hunger strike yesterday after he was unable to participate in a court hearing via video link from his hospital room.

“Mikheil Saakashvili went on a hunger strike, demanding he be allowed to take part in the court hearings by video link” from a civilian hospital where he has been treated for months, under armed guard, his lawyer Dito Sadzaglishvili told AFP.

The 54-year-old was transferred to hospital last year after a 50-day hunger strike to protest at his jailing, which rights groups have denounced as politically motivated.

Independent doctors who examined Saakashvili have long warned his life was at risk as he is being denied adequate medical treatment.

One medic said he had lost around 40 kilogrammes since his detention.

His lawyers demanded the deferral of his prison sentence and the court hearing into the case had to be postponed yesterday after the authorities failed to arrange a video link between the courtroom and Saakashvili’s hospital.

Saakashvili, the founder of Georgia’s main opposition force and president of the small Caucasian nation from 2004 to 2013, was convicted in absentia on charges of abuse of office and sentenced to six years in prison in 2018. The pro-Western reformer was imprisoned in October 2021, days after secretly returning from exile in Ukraine.

Supporters of former Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili protest in front of Tbilisi’s city court to call for his release. PHOTO: AFP

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