Ex-pres. Saakashvili “self-harming”, not following doctors’ instructions - Justice Minister

Justice Minister Rati Bregadze on Tuesday alleged a “radical” wing of the opposition planned to exert pressure on a judge during a trial hearing involving former President Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo: Justice Ministry press office

Agenda.ge, 07 Dec 2022 - 11:47, Tbilisi,Georgia

The imprisoned former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili is engaged in “self-harm”, refusing to follow doctors’ instructions, and eating “only what he wants and when he wants”, Justice Minister Rati Bregadze told Imedi TV on Tuesday. 

Responding to recent claims by Saakashvili’s lawyers and the domestic rehabilitation centre Empathy over his “seriously deteriorated health” and an “urgent need” of transferring him abroad for “proper treatment”, the Minister expressed his “suspicion” that Saakashvili and his “close entourage” may “not be interested in [actual] recovery [of his health condition]”. 

Commenting on the appeal of Saakashvili’s lawyers to the domestic court on Thursday to either grant his release on medical grounds or postpone the serving of the rest of his sentence, Bregadze stressed the “radical wing” of the domestic opposition was trying to “exert pressure” on the judge, with the trial scheduled on Friday. 

He said the “radical politicians” were “warning” the judge of upcoming rallies, courthouse demonstrations and other actions through opposition-minded TV channels to “hamper his activities and achieve the illegal release” of the former official.

Saakashvili has been receiving treatment in the Vivamedi civilian clinic since May 12. Photo: hticenters.com.

The law defines procedures for postponement of sentence, and it is the right [of any individual] to address the court. A judge delivers a verdict based on evidence. However, we see very simple and cheap tricks from the radical opposition. They are trying to put pressure on a judge in all possible ways, including using televisions and various media”, the Minister said, adding “exerting pressure on a judge is unacceptable in any democratic state”. 

In response to a health report released by the Empathy centre last week that said Saakashvili could face “coma or death” due to more than 20 health issues, Zurab Chkhaidze, the Director of the Vivamedi civilian clinic where the former official has been receiving treatment since May 12, said the patient “eats when he wants. He refuses to eat, rather than being unable to eat”. 

A separate examination on Saakashvili’s health by a group of professionals assembled by the country’s Public Defender, published on Tuesday, pointed to cachexia - a hypercatabolic state associated with chronic diseases - as its diagnosis. 

The report also said Saakashvili had lost 42 kg, and was suffering from restriction of movement, decrease in energy, sensitivity disorder, raised body temperature, deterioration of memory and change in behaviour.

Former President chaired the Executive Committee of the Ukrainian National Reforms Council before his arrest in Tbilisi in October 2021. Photo: Netgazeti. 

Nika Melia, the incumbent Chair of the United National Movement opposition party - the largest opposition group founded by Saakashvili and in Government between 2004-2012 - called for a party meeting on Wednesday to discuss a “strategy” for the trial as the date for the latter was announced.

There is nothing more important than promoting this process with our unity and cooperation both with each other and with the [legal] defence side and Saakashvili's family”, Melia said in his social media post on Tuesday. 

In his previous comments, Georgia’s Justice Minister had stressed Saakashvili’s rights were being “fully protected” in detention facilities, from the Rustavi No.12 prison - where he was initially placed - to the hospital of the Gldani No.18 prison - where he was moved in early November last year - as well as the Gori Military Hospital - where he was transferred in late November - and finally at the Vivamedi civilian clinic, where he has been receiving treatment since May 12.

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

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.