Saakashvili Tells Georgian Court He Wants 'Opportunity For Adequate Treatment'

TBILISI -- Jailed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is being treated in a private clinic in Tbilisi for health problems, has asked for "the opportunity for adequate treatment" during a court hearing on having his sentence suspended so he can be transferred abroad for more intensive care.

The imprisoned ex-president has been treated at the Vivamedi facility since May 2022. Doctors said earlier this month that Saakashvili contracted a mild form of COVID and therefore does not need treatment in intensive care.

Saakashvili, who was Georgian president from 2004 to 2013, is serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power, a charge that he and his supporters say was politically motivated.

His medical team says his health has worsened significantly since he went to prison in October 2021 and staged repeated hunger strikes to protest his incarceration. He is also currently on trial on separate charges of violently dispersing an anti-government rally in November 2007 and illegal border crossing.

He has rejected those charges as well, calling them trumped-up, and his legal team is seeking to have the trial postponed for health reasons.

"I gave Georgia all my knowledge and creativity...the only thing I ask for is to give me the opportunity for adequate treatment," he told the court on February 1 via video link from the clinic where he is being treated.

During his address to the court, which was severely hampered by technical issues, Saakashvili lifted his hospital dress to reveal his emaciated physical condition. The judge quickly stopped the video transmission and asked the former president to appear only fully clothed.

The court hearing came a day after Saakashvili's associates said the former president had been transferred to an intensive-care unit, a claim hospital personnel rejected.

Saakashvili's mother, Giuli Alasania, said earlier in the day that her son, who was diagnosed with COVID several days ago, "again fell unconscious" overnight and that his body temperature had risen to 39 degrees Celsius.

Medical personnel did not confirm her statement and hospital director Nino Nadiradze told RFE/RL's Georgian Service that the former leader had not been moved.

On January 28, Vivamedi's chief physician, Zurab Chkhaidze, told journalists that Saakashvili had dramatically reduced food consumption and was rejecting medical treatment. Chkhaidze then called on Saakashvili's relatives to convince the ex-president to obey the doctors' recommendations.

In early December, Saakashvili's legal team distributed a medical report that said he had been "poisoned" with heavy metals while in custody and risked dying without proper treatment.