Former president Saakashvili’s lawyers file court appeal for release on medical grounds

  • Former president Mikheil Saakashvili currently holds Ukrainian citizenship and chaired the executive committee of the Ukrainian national reforms council before his arrest in Tbilisi in October 2021.  Photo: IPN, 1 Dec 2022 - 15:15, Tbilisi,Georgia

Lawyers of Mikheil Saakashvili, the imprisoned former president of Georgia, on Thursday appealed to Tbilisi City Court for granting his release on medical grounds, citing a new report by a domestic rehabilitation centre that pointed to potential “coma and death” for the former official in detention.

The lawyers said Saakashvili’s release was a “primary goal”, while adding they would also accept postponement of his sentence.

The Empathy centre, a domestic non-governmental organisation monitoring Saakashvili’s health, on Thursday said its conclusion on the current condition of the former president, drafted with the involvement of 10 Georgian and six foreign health professionals, had been handed to lawyers on Tuesday.

The NGO said the 2,980-page document had pointed to more than 20 health issues, as well as possible intoxication, for Saakashvili between July 1 and November 28, and claimed the complications could lead to coma and death.

Without giving specific diagnoses, the organisation said Saakashvili suffered from neuro, mental and gasto-enterological issues, as well as fever with unidentified aetiology, anorexia, rapid weight loss, muscle breakdown, joint and vision problems. It also noted “multiple complications” could be the result of a possible intoxication, which could also trigger mental disorders. 

Ruling party MP, former health minister David Sergeenko said politicians and lawyers did not allow doctors to work, over-politicising the health matters of ex-president Saakashvili. Photo: parliament press office 

The organisation also said a “complete” toxicological examination was “impossible” either in the Vivamedi civilian clinic, where Saakashvili has been undergoing treatment since May, or in prison, and recommended the former president’s transfer for “accurate” diagnoses and “adequate treatment” to a healthcare facility either in the United States or Europe. 

It also said Saakashvili reportedly was a victim of torture and inhumane treatment in custody, which had “seriously damaged him both mentally and physically”. 

Responding to the claims, several MPs of the ruling Georgian Dream party said Saakashvili was attempting to evade punishment using the conclusions, adding he had been ensured “with all necessary services” while in prison. 

GD MP David Sergeenko said he had “never seen or heard” such a “long series to be staged to clarify diagnoses by calling a concilium of health professionals”. 

If doctors say that Saakashvili is in need of a toxicological examination, the examination will be performed here. If it is not possible, then samples - and not the patient - will be sent abroad. The only thing that may harm Saakashvili’s health is the over-politicisation of his health matters”, Sergeenko said. 

Saakashvili, a citizen of Ukraine, was arrested in Tbilisi in October 2021 on his clandestine return to Georgia ahead of municipal elections.

Georgian Dream authorities have maintained the rights of the former president have been “fully protected”, including in his transfer for treatment to Gori Military Hospital in November and then to Vivamedi clinic on May 12, as Saakashvili went on hunger strike shortly after his arrest. 

The former president is serving a six-year term for abuse of power in two separate cases stemming back to his time in office, while three other cases are pending.