An opposition protest is ongoing outside the No 12 Penitentiary Facility in the city of Rustavi, located outside capital Tbilisi, with demands of moving the imprisoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili from the prison to a private clinic due to health reasons.
Announced a week ago by the political opposition, led by the United National Movement party headed by Saakashvili during his presidency, the demonstration launched at 5pm local time and saw members of the UNM and several other opposition parties, as well as citizens supporting the high-profile inmate, arrive outside the facility and make the demand they have voiced with the media over the recent days.
#Georgia: Supporters of the imprisoned former president Mikheil #Saakashvili held a rally outside the prison in the city of #Rustavi, demanding the high-profile inmate is moved to a private clinic due to health conditions. pic.twitter.com/7ZQxoX1CC8— agenda.ge (@agenda_ge) November 6, 2021
Their message follows contradictory information on the health condition and diet of the former president over the same period, with his personal physician telling the local press on Friday Saakashvili's health was in a "rather difficult" state, and arguing the politician required examination by a cardiologist, an eye specialist and a larynx professional.
Supporters of Saakashvili pictured outside the No 12 Penitentiary Facility in Rustavi on Saturday. Photo: Nino Alavidze/agenda.ge.
Nikoloz Kipshidze also 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. In a further self-imposed restriction of care, his patient on Saturday appeared to refuse to take necessary medication, aiming to "completely prevent any speculation [about my diet]".
Kipshidze's remarks followed comments made by Minister of Justice of Georgia, Rati Bregadze, to Rustavi 2 channel earlier the same day, with the official telling the outlet the imprisoned politician ate products outside "medical designation", in contradiction to hunger strike diet.
#Georgia #happeningNow: Ex President #Saakashili's supporters brought flags and messages of support outside the No 12 Penitentiary Facility in the city of #Rustavi, outside capital #Tbilisi, as rallies in support of the now-imprisoned politician launched in the two cities. pic.twitter.com/bYaXkdfqXC— agenda.ge (@agenda_ge) November 6, 2021
Further comments were made on Saturday by the deputy head of the medical department of the Special Penitentiary Service, Giorgi Chidrashvili, who said Saakashvili's health condition was "stable", his vitals "within the norm", and the inmate was receiving "necessary nutritional additives".
Participants of the rally seen with a rose, the symbol of the 2003 revolution in Georgia led by Saakashvili and other opposition politicians. Photo: Nino Alavidze/agenda.ge.
The protesters in support of Saakashvili have brushed off statements by the officials, with UNM member Zaal Udumashvili telling the media at the Saturday rally the former's health was in a "very grave" condition. Udumashvili cited Saakashvili's refusal to take medication on Saturday as a reason to "avoid any postponement" on a decision on moving the patient out of the prison and into a private clinic.
Protesters seen on a backdrop of a poster produced in support of calls for releasing Saakashvili from imprisonment. Photo: Nino Alavidze/agenda.ge.
The protesting politicians also made comments about a briefing on Saturday from Georgia's State Security Service, where the agency claimed it had identified plans for "assassination" of an opposition figure and blocking of government institutions by organisers of the Saturday rally, directed by Saakashvili from prison.
Law enforcement crews were mobilised outside the facility with barriers, while limits were enforced on traffic on adjacent streets, in anticipation of the rally. Photo: Nino Alavidze/agenda.ge.
Zurab Japaridze, the leader of the Girchi - More Freedom party, called the comments "blabber" in comments from the protest, telling reporters the claims had been made by the security service in an attempt to dent participation numbers for the rally.
Law enforcement has been mobilised outside the Rustavi facility since earlier in the day, with barriers placed and traffic movement restricted by police.