Georgia: tens of thousands demonstrate for opponent Saakashvili, hospitalized in prison

Nearly 40,000 people demonstrated on Monday, November 8, in Tbilisi, Georgia, shortly after the news of the hospitalization of opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, imprisoned and on hunger strike. Chanting the name of the former Georgian president, the demonstrators joined, in the evening, the central square of the capital of this Caucasian country, according to journalists from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“A massive and permanent protest movement begins in Georgia and will not stop until Mikheil Saakashvili is released and early elections are held”, released in front of the crowd Nika Melia, the president of the United National Movement (MNU) of the former head of state. “We will not disperse, our protest will be relentless and peaceful”, he said again.

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“Victim of a political vendetta”

Protesters then marched through the city center towards the prime minister’s office, intending to block the building. Mikheil Saakashvili is “Victim of a political vendetta, we will not stop until he is released”said one of them, Niko Mgeladze, a 46-year-old businessman. Opposition-friendly Mtavari TV broadcast footage of hundreds of riot police deployed in front of government buildings.

On Monday, the former president said he feared for his life and assured to have been physically abused by his guards. They “Insulted me, hit me on the neck, pulled me on the ground by the hair”Saakashvili said in a letter to his lawyer, believing that ” the goal “ of his transfer on Monday to a prison hospital was to ” to kill “.

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A few hours earlier, the penitentiary services had announced the transfer of Mr. Saakashvili to a hospital-prison in order to“Avoid the worsening of his state of health” after 39 days of hunger strike. Earlier Monday, doctors who had examined Mr. Saakashvili pointed out a “High risk of complications” and the “Need to treat him urgently in a well-equipped multipurpose clinic”.

” Sentenced to death “

Pro-Western president from 2004 to 2013 and now considered the leader of the opposition, Mr. Saakashvili returned on 1is October in Georgia after an eight-year exile. Immediately arrested, he was imprisoned under a conviction for ” abuse of power “, which he considers purely political.

A charismatic and ambivalent figure in Georgian politics, but also in Ukraine, Mikheïl Saakachvili has since observed a hunger strike to protest against his imprisonment. His supporters have been demanding for weeks his release, or at least his hospitalization in a civilian establishment and not a penitentiary hospital.

According to Georgian human rights envoy Nino Lomjaria, a hospital-prison does not meet the criteria set out by Georgian doctors. “When the Georgian Parliament abolished on my initiative [en 1998] the death penalty, I could not imagine that, years later, I would be sentenced to death in Georgia ”Saakashvili said Monday in a statement released by his lawyer.

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His personal doctor, Nikoloz Kipchidzé, had revealed in October that the ex-president had blood problems which made his refusal to eat. “Particularly dangerous”. Mr Saakashvili’s lawyers, meanwhile, expressed concern that his “Security will not be guaranteed in this hospital-prison where convicted criminals are employed as medical auxiliaries.”

Political crisis

The independent television station Pirveli reported that inmates at the prison hospital had organized a “Noise riot”, loudly insulting Mr. Saakashvili, who led a campaign against organized crime during his presidency.

On Saturday, supporters of Mr. Saakashvili had set up dozens of tents in front of the Roustavi prison, where he was being held, promising to organize continuous vigils until he was transferred to a civilian hospital.

Known for having effectively fought corruption but also much criticized for having provoked a Russian military intervention in 2008, Mikheïl Saakachvili had left Georgia in 2013. He had returned there on 1is October, just before municipal elections won by the ruling Georgian Dream Party and labeled as fraudulent by the opposition, in which Mr Saakashvili’s UNM is the leading figure.

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His imprisonment further aggravated the political crisis in Georgia, which began with the legislative elections of 2020, also narrowly won by the Georgian Dream and considered by the opposition as falsified. Georgian security services assured that the former president was planning a coup from his cell, a ” fairy tale “, according to the MNU. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, for his part, recently caused a scandal by declaring that Mikheil Saakashvili “Had the right to commit suicide”.

“We call on the Georgian side to immediately transfer Mikheil Saakashvili to a civilian medical establishment”, reacted, Monday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a protest note sent to Tbilisi.

The World with AFP

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Georgia: tens of thousands demonstrate for opponent Saakashvili, hospitalized in prison