Justice minister: hearing of 2008 Imedi channel case against Saakashvili could be held at Rustavi prison

Minister Bregadze cited security concerns of moving the former president out of the Rustavi facility, while revealing hearings over a 2008 case against Saakashvili could be held at the prison. Photo via Ministry of Justice of Georgia press office.

Agenda.ge, 06 Nov 2021 - 13:52, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia's justice minister Rati Bregadze has revealed the nearest hearings of a case against Mikheil Saakashvili could take place at the penitentiary facility in the city of Rustavi where the politician is located, as the United National Movement-led rallies are set to launch outside the prison and in capital Tbilisi on Saturday.

Bregadze said on Friday the ministry recommended the hearings - for the case over a 2008 storming of Imedi channel by law enforcement, when Saakashvili headed the UNM government - to be held at the detention facility "on security grounds".

The comments followed those by the State Security Service on Friday, in which the security body said it had "operational information" over plans for "assassination" of an opposition figure and blocking of government institutions by organisers of large rallies expected on Saturday in support of Saakashvili.

In his comments, the justice minister referred to the SSS briefing, as well as an earlier release by the service that said opposition forces could mobilise and interfere if the former president was moved out of the facility for any reason.

Speaking to Rustavi 2 channel, Bregadze said his ministry also had "other information" on potential security risks of removing the high-profile detainee from the facility in Rustavi, adding it was a "strict recommendation" of the ministry that Saakashvili was not moved out of the No 12 Prison in the city, which is located outside capital Tbilisi.

The justice minister said the state body could not afford to "expend all energy on avoiding a provocation", leading to the recommendation on limiting the court hearing to the facility.

A major part of the political opposition in Georgia has demanded Saakashvili is moved from the prison to a private civilian clinic on health grounds, with the prisoner's personal physician telling reporters on Friday his condition was "rather difficult" as a result of the hunger strike he has been on.

The hearing on the 2008 Imedi channel case is one of four outstanding court proceedings against the former president, who has already been sentenced to six years in prison for convictions in two separate cases that were concluded in the recent years.

Saakashvili also faces hearings over the violent dispersal of anti-government mass protests on November 7, 2007, an alleged illegal takeover of the property of entrepreneur Badri (Arkadi) Patarkatsishvili in the early 2000s, and alleged embezzlement of 9,024,367 GEL ($284,000/€246,000) of state funds in 2009.