Saakashvili Launches New Hunger Strike To Protest Health Care

By RFE/RL's Georgian Service

TBILISI -- Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has launched a new hunger strike to protest the government's refusing to provide adequate health care for him and the "the way the authorities treat me and our people."

Saakashvili announced his decision in court during his trial on charges of violently dispersing an antigovernment rally in November 2007.

"I demand proper medical assistance as the Ombudswoman-established Concilium and the [Tbilisi-based nongovernmental] Empathy [Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture] have demanded," Saakashvili said at the trial on February 21.

Saakashvili, who was on a 50-day hunger strike while in custody last year, read aloud a letter purportedly from a Dutch physician warning that another hunger strike would cause irreversible damage to Saakashvili’s body that could lead to death.

Saakashvili, who served as president from 2004 until 2013, has been also charged with embezzlement and illegally crossing Georgia's border. He has rejected the charges calling them politically motivated.

Saakashvili, 54, has been in custody since October 1, when he was detained shortly after returning to Georgia from self-imposed exile. He is serving a six-year sentence after being convicted in absentia of abuse of office. He maintains his innocence in the case which he says is politically motivated, too.