Health fears for Georgia’s jailed ex-leader Saakashvili after TV footage
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili appeared on television for the first time in months Monday, looking frail and emaciated, fueling concerns over the detained politician’s treatment, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.
The 55-year-old – who before the jail was a large man -– was almost unrecognizable and looked like a ghost of his former self.
The images prompted war-torn Ukraine – of which Saakashvili is a citizen – to summon the Georgian ambassador, asking him to go to Tbilisi to help “save” Saakashvili.
Leader of the Caucasus country from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili was jailed after returning from exile on abuse of power charges that rights groups denounce as politically motivated.
Doctors have said Saakashvili risks dying from conditions he has developed while in custody, though Georgian authorities say he is being given adequate medical care.
Appearing via video link for a court hearing on the “abuse of office” charges, Saakashvili, 55, lifted his shirt to show his ribs protruding from his chest, a hollow abdomen, and skin clinging tightly to his bones.
“A totally innocent man is being kept in custody,” he said in coverage carried live on several independent TV channels. “I did not commit any crime.”
He is being held at a civilian hospital, where he was transferred last year after staging a 50-day hunger strike to protest his detention.
“Putting me in jail will not break me. I am going to be actively involved in Georgian politics,” he said.
‘Save this man’
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Georgian ambassador to Kyiv would be asked to “leave Ukraine within 48 hours to hold consultations with his capital” on Saakashvili’s treatment.
Zelensky wants Saakashvili – whom he made a Ukrainian citizen in 2019 — to be transferred to a clinic in Ukraine or the West.
He called on Georgia to “hand over” Saakashvili to Ukraine and “save this man”.
It was not immediately clear if the ambassador was being formally expelled.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that the ambassador would arrive at his offices on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow morning, the Georgian ambassador will be at the Foreign Ministry, we will have a tough conversation with him, he will go to Georgia,” Kuleba said on social media.
Kyiv, which has been battling a Russian invasion for 16 months, has accused Tbilisi of increasingly cooperating with Moscow.
Zelensky accused Russia of “killing” Saakashvili “at the hands of the Georgian authorities.”
Two groups of doctors -– one set up by Georgia’s rights ombudsperson, another comprising U.S.-based medics — have said that Saakashvili’s health continued to decline well after he ended his hunger strike.
The group of US-based doctors, who examined Saakashvili in person, said his deteriorating health was the result of “torture” in custody, saying he needed an immediate transfer to a medical center abroad.
The politician, who once weighed over 100 kilograms (220 pounds), has lost around 60 kilograms while in prison, the doctor groups say.
The European Union and the United States have urged Georgia to ensure that Saakashvili is provided medical treatment and that his rights are protected.
Amnesty International has branded his treatment as “apparent political revenge”.