Georgia’s jailed former president Mikheil Saakashvili has been transferred to a prison hospital, authorities said, just over five weeks after he declared a hunger strike.
Saakashvili, 53, was arrested on October 1 this year after returning to Georgia on the eve of local elections to rally the opposition, in what he described as a mission to save the country.
“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 penitentiary department said in a statement on Monday.
The announcement came as his supporters prepared to rally in Tbilisi to seek his hospitalisation in a civilian clinic – as advised by medics – rather than in a prison hospital.
Earlier on Monday, doctors who examined Saakashvili said he was “at high risk of systemic complications and needs to be urgently treated in a … high-tech clinic.”
Georgia’s rights ombudswoman Nino Lomjaria said the prison hospital failed to meet the doctors’ criteria.
Saakashvili was jailed in the town of Rustavi, south of the capital, Tbilisi.
He has refused food for 39 days to protest against his imprisonment, which he says is politically motivated.
He faces six years in prison after being convicted in absentia in 2018 of abusing his office during his rule as president of the former Soviet republic from 2004 to 2013 – charges he rejected as politically motivated.
President Salome Zourabichvili said last week Saakashvili had returned in order to destabilise Georgian politics and that he could never be pardoned.
But she said that given the strong public interest in his case, he must be recognised as a special prisoner and authorities should take all possible measures “so the deterioration of his health is not used for political speculation or destabilisation”.
A lawyer for Saakashvili had no immediate comment on his transfer.