Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been transferred to Gldani Prison to ‘prevent a deterioration of his health’, the Penitentiary Service has confirmed.
Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital had been a key demand from opposition groups since shortly after he went on hunger strike. The authorities have rejected this demand, insisting that he would be moved to a hospital in Gldani Prison in Tbilisi if required, something the former President has vigorously rejected.
Footage of a helicopter leaving the prison in Rustavi, where Saakashvili is on hunger strike, was published by local media on Monday evening.
The reports emerged hours before a planned demonstration organised by Saakashvili’s United National Movement Party (UNM) in downtown Tbilisi.
Before his reported transfer, Nikoloz Kipshidze, Saakashvili’s personal physician, told journalists that a concilium of doctors assigned to his case had decided earlier that day that he required an ‘immediate transfer to a multi-profile civilian hospital’ due to his declining health.
Information on Mikheil Saakashvili’s health condition has been conflicted. His representatives have several times warned that it was a matter of ‘hours’ until the former President fell critically ill.
The authorities, including the Special Penitentiary Service, however, have insisted he was stable and even had been consuming food, something that stirred up the controversy even more.
[Read more on OC Media: UNM gives Monday ultimatum for Saakashvili’s transfer to hospital]
Several hours before his transfer, Saakashvili vowed to continue his protest ‘until death’ while also urging people to focus more on ‘stolen elections’ than his health.
‘I really could not imagine that years later the death penalty would be restored in Georgia and, ironically, it would be restored for me’, Saakashvili said in his statement sent from prison.
Saakashvili’s representatives as well as the Georgian Public Defender had argued that Gldani Prison Hospital was inadequate compared to a multi-profile civilian hospital.
The Public Defender’s Office argued that beyond a lack of medical services, Saakashvili would also face possible security risks such as a prison riot or ‘psychological pressure’ from other inmates.
Gldani Prison is also symbolic as it was the epicentre of a scandal that substantially contributed to the UNM’s loss in the 2012 parliamentary election leading to Georgian Dream’s assumption of power. Shortly before the election, footage of prisoners being tortured and raped by guards was leaked to the media.