Former pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ‘close to death’ after alleged poisoning in prison | world news

Former Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili told Sky News he was nearing death in hospital where he had been transferred from prison.

In a moment of rare media access, the former leader also issued a warning to the people of Georgia after days of protests swept the country.

An appeal trial last month heard claims by an independent expert that Mr Saakashvili had been poisoned in prison.

The Georgian authorities reject this possibility and will not allow him to be transferred for treatment in Europe.

Sky News was denied access to the hospital but was able to forward Mr Saakashvili’s questions through his lawyer and receive handwritten responses in response.

When asked how close he was to death, Mr Saakashvili said: “I initially weighed 120 kilograms, now I am 64, if I become less than 60, doctors are predicting heart failure. multiple organs.

As for his health, he said, “I’m in bed all the time, my bones are falling apart and it’s giving me excruciating pain.”

His lawyer Shalva Khachapuridze said his client’s condition was getting worse every day.

“It’s a horrible scene,” Mr Khachapuridze told Sky News. “He looks like a prisoner in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.”

Mr Saakashvili sent a message to the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets to protest against proposed new laws criticized as pro-Russian.

“Remain very vigilant, be ready to mobilize at short notice, due to the vengeful mood of the regime of the oligarchs,” he wrote in his correspondence with Sky News.

From the hospital, Mikheil Saakashvili responds to Sky News questions sent in a letter via his lawyer
From the hospital, Mikheil Saakashvili responds to Sky News questions sent in a letter via his lawyer

Zelensky and Macron intervene

The government has now withdrawn the controversial bill.

But the West is watching what happens to Mr Saakashvili closely, reading it as a sign of the country’s genuine loyalty to Russia or Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about Mr Saakashvili’s fate this week, saying: “Former political leaders in Georgia who are detained and in poor health should be released or the health situation checked.”

A European Parliament resolution in February demanded his release and pardon and warned Georgia that the issue would be seen as a “litmus test” for its commitment to European values.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for the release of the former Georgian leader.

“Right now, the Ukrainian citizen, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is being slowly killed,” President Zelenskyy said.

“Ukraine has offered solutions. I urge the world to help save [Saakashvili’s] life and prevent its execution. »

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shows photos of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili during a joint news conference with Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. Saakashvili was imprisoned at his return to Georgia after eight years of exile.  Photo: AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held up photos of Mr Saakashvili during a press conference in February

Mikheil Saakashvili rose to fame as a dynamic young politician who led his country through the so-called “Rose Revolution” in 2003, when Georgians rose up and threw off Russian rule.

He became a hero in the West for resisting aggression from Moscow, which was sending tanks into Georgia.

But he has been accused of abuse of power and his administration has been overshadowed by accusations that he plotted the deaths of opponents in custody.

The government “does everything” for Mikheil Saakashvili

The ruling Georgian Dream party insists that Mr Saakashvili must serve his sentence and receive sufficient care. Authorities say his health problems are caused by his refusal to eat enough food.

“We hope that this (his death) does not happen and that his needs will be properly taken care of,” Georgian Dream MP Maka Botchorishvili told Sky News.

“We believe the government is doing everything Saakashvili, as a prisoner in Georgia, has the absolute right to do,” she said in an interview in Tbilisi.

“Everything he needs is done, health-wise…and the needs that are there.”

Dominic Waghorn interviews Georgian Dream Party MP Maka Botchorishvili in Tbilisi
Georgian Dream Party MP Maka Botchorishvili says Mr Saakashvili is well looked after

But Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say the Georgian government is denying him “adequate medical care”, putting him at serious risk of death.

A group of medical experts appointed by the Georgian public defender confirmed that Saakashvili’s condition was serious and required an urgent change to his ineffective treatment.

Poland and Ukraine have offered to take in Mikheil Saakashvili for medical treatment.

But the Georgian government says it doubts he is as sick as it claims and says his release could destabilize the country.

If they are wrong and he is close to multiple organ failure, the fallout from his impending death could drastically reduce the country’s chances of joining the European Union.

Much is at stake as the world watches the fate of the former Georgian leader.


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