Minister of Justice of Georgia, Rati Bregadze, has alleged the imprisoned former president of the country, Mikheil Saakashvili, eats diet outside "medical designation" in contradiction to his hunger strike, and in contrast to comments by the private physician of the politician.
Bregadze said on Friday Saakashvili's diet included porridge and natural juice beverages, implying a breaking of hunger strike diet restrictions by the inmate, adding the ministry's information was "backed by evidence and facts".
Making the comments to local media as the head of the state body that oversees detention facilities, the minister said the information was being divulged after the ministry had responded to a letter from an unnamed member of parliament requesting facts about the former president's diet.
Bregadze said his ministry's response to the PM inquiry meant the information would become public "anyway", leading to his decision to also share it to the press.
Speaking to Rustavi 2 channel, the justice minister said Saakashvili had obtained a debit card upon entering prison - through standard procedure for inmates - and used it to purchase food before refusing to eat the products.
A "certain period later", the high-profile inmate made a decision to accept a diet of porridge and juice, in addition to medication designated to him by physicians, Bregadze told reporters of the channel.
The minister was also asked about rumours of Saakashvili having undergone surgery of digestive system before his arrival in Georgia last month, but said he would not make comments due to the "personal" nature of the information.
Bregadze's comments were contradicted by information given by Nikoloz Kipshidze, the persona physician of Saakashvili, to reporters on Friday, with the medical professional telling journalists he had "not observed" the former president eating porridge in detention.
Kipshidze said he had not seen the product in Saakashvili's diet, telling local media they should instead direct the question to the prison security, doctor and nurses, and added there were "cameras everywhere" in the facility.
In additional comments, the physician said the inmate's health condition was "rather difficult", with the politician requiring examination by a cardiologist, an eye specialist and a larynx professional. Kipshidze said he was unhappy with the treatment of his patient at the facility and could not see a way forward for successful medical attention while Saakashvili remained at the prison.
A major part of the political opposition in Georgia, led by the United National Movement headed by Saakashvili during his years as president, is planning to launch large-scale rallies in his support in capital Tbilisi and outside the prison facility in the nearby city of Rustavi, on Saturday.
Saakashvili has been in prison since his arrest on October 1, after he had attempted to clandestinely enter the country ahead of the October 2 municipal elections in Georgia. Courts of the country ruled against him in absentia in two cases held throughout the recent years, while the former president served on a number of government positions in Ukraine.
Saakashvili has been sentenced to six years in prison based on convictions in two hearings. However, more cases have been filed against him and are being heard by Tbilisi City Court. Additional prison time could be added to his existing sentence if he is found guilty in these hearings.