Georgia jailed ex-leader Saakashvili ‘tortured’ in custody: doctors

Supporters of the 'United National Movement' rally against the arrest of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in front of the Tbilisi City Court in Tbilisi, Georgia, 2 December 2021. [EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE]

The health of Georgia’s jailed opposition leader and ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili has been seriously damaged as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody, an independent council of medics said Saturday (18 December).

Saakashvili refused food for 50 days to protest against his jailing for abuse of office, a conviction he has denounced as politically motivated.

The 53-year-old pro-Western reformer called off his hunger strike after he was placed — in a critical condition — in a military hospital in Georgia’s eastern city of Gori.

He has developed a number of neurological diseases “as a result of torture, ill-treatment, inadequate medical care, and a prolonged hunger-strike”, said the doctors, who had examined him in custody.

Their statement said he had been diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening brain disease Wernicke encephalopathy and with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other conditions.

One of the doctors, psychiatrist Mariam Jishkariani, told AFP that the conditions that “resulted from Saakashvili’s psychological torture in prison, could lead to his incapacitation if he is not given a proper medical care”.

She said Saakashvili was “wrongly prescribed antipsychotic drugs which he hadn’t needed and which could further damage his health”.

“This could be interpreted as a pharmacological torture.”

Earlier in November, Saakashvili said he was subjected to psychological torture that included death threats, sleep deprivation and physical abuse.

“I was tortured, I was treated inhumanely, beaten up, and humiliated,” he said.

Georgia’s State Inspector Service said in a statement last week that it “had launched an investigation into the alleged inhuman treatment” of Saakashvili.

‘Political revenge’

The independent Pirveli TV channel reported that inmates in the prison shouted threats and profanities at Saakashvili who led a campaign against organised crime during his tenure as president.

Saakashvili has said it was “orchestrated by the prison administration”.

He described an episode when he “was alone and absolutely sure the criminals were coming to kill” him as prison guards did not respond to his call.

In November, the country’s justice ministry released footage of the former president being dragged by the floor by prison guards during his forcible transfer from prison to a prison hospital.

Amnesty International has branded Saakashvili’s treatment “not just selective justice but apparent political revenge”.

The US State Department has urged Georgia’s government “to treat Saakashvili fairly and with dignity”.

US urges Georgia to treat ex-president on hunger strike with dignity

The United States on Thursday (18 November) urged Georgia to provide humane treatment to jailed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike for weeks is now reported to be in critical condition.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanded that the ex-Soviet nation’s authorities “ensure his safety in prison, and provide him with appropriate medical care”.

The ruling was delivered in November as part of an urgent interim measure that the ECHR applies “only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm”, the court said in a statement.

Georgia’s president from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili was arrested on 1 October shortly after he secretly returned to Georgia from exile in Ukraine.

His arrest exacerbated a political crisis stemming from parliamentary polls last year that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.

It also spurred the largest anti-government protests in a decade.

Rights groups have accused the Georgian government of using criminal prosecutions to punish political opponents and critical media.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sparked an uproar recently when he said the government had been forced to arrest Saakashvili because he refused to quit politics.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe