The IRCT has condemned the ill treatment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili after authorities in Tbilisi forcibly transferred the hunger-striking prisoner to a prison hospital where he faces threats to his life.
“We are deeply concerned about the escalated threat of torture faced by the former president,” said IRCT Secretary General Lisa Henry. “We call strongly for the authorities to respect and protect his basic human rights.”
Saakashvili ruled Georgia from 2004 to 2013 but was arrested last month after returning from exile in Ukraine to support the Georgian opposition ahead of local elections. He was convicted in absentia in 2018 of abusing his office and concealing evidence during his rule, charges he rejects as politically motivated, and has been on hunger strike for more than 40 days.
The IRCT has condemned the ill treatment in Georgian prison of former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
In a statement, the Ombudsman’s Office said Public Defender Nino Lomjaria visited Saakashvili on 8 November and reported the former president had agreed to be transferred to a civil clinic, but that he was subsequently moved to the Gldani prison hospital against his will, a situation the Office said “grossly violates human rights” as Saakashvili is subject to serious threats and harassment by Gldani inmates.
"The Gldani prison facility houses criminal convicts, many of whom hold Saakashvili personally responsible for crackdown on criminal networks and mistreatment of prisoners during his tenure," wrote Georgia analyst Jelger Groeneveld on Twitter.
Saakashvili released a statement through his lawyer, saying that the transfer “aimed at killing” him. The guards “abused me verbally, punched me on the neck, dragged me on the ground by my hair,” he said.
The Public Defender's Office also criticised the adequacy of health care facilities at Gldani given that Saakashvili, 53, continues to be on hunger strike and reportedly refuses to receive proper medication or medical care. The prison service said at the weekend he had been eating jars of baby food and drinking juice. In a Facebook post, Saakashvili said he was not taking food but had received a few bottles of juice.
The Ombudsman said it had requested the State Inspector's Office to investigate the ill treatment and called on the Minister of Justice to transfer Saakashvili to an alternative medical facility.
Doctors had recommended weeks ago that Saakashvili be hospitalised as a precaution, and he was given a blood transfusion on 22 October.
"His condition was getting worse,” Nona Mamulashvili, a member of Saakashvili’s opposition party, told Reuters, confirming a report that he had taken confession in prison with a priest of the Orthodox Church.
Despite thousands of demonstrators rallying in support of Saakashvili in Tbilisi over recent weeks, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said Saakashvili could never be pardoned, and that she believed he had come back in order to destabilise Georgian politics.