Saakashvili ‘Critical’ as Medical Hearing Postponed Again

Tbilisi City Court today again postponed a decision on the request of the imprisoned ex-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to suspend his sentence or release him due to health issues.

Mikheil Saakashvili GeorgiaGeorgian former President Mikheil Saakashvili is said to have been poisoned. (Photo: Chatham House, Flickr, License)The rescheduled hearing is set to take place next Thursday, Dec. 22. The Special Penitentiary Service had asked for a month to scrutinize the medical documentation presented by the defense. The judge agreed to grant them nine days.

This marks the second postponement in the case. An earlier hearing set for Dec. 9 had been rescheduled to today.

Saakashvili’s legal team wants the court to suspend his sentence or release him for medical treatment abroad. His health has deteriorated in recent months and they are concerned that he has been poisoned in prison.

Saakashvili did not attend today’s hearing. Doctors at the private clinic Vivamed, where he has been hospitalized since May, wouldn't allow his transfer, saying he’s in critical condition. There were plans, however, for him to join by video conference. “As far as I know, they are ready to involve him in the hearing,” Vivamed’s clinical director Zurab Chkhaidze told journalists when asked if a laptop had been set up in Saakashvili’s hospital room.

But when the hearing began, the penitentiary service announced a change of plans.

Service representative Nika Abramishvili said that Saakashvili couldn’t join online because their agency didn't have the necessary technical equipment for a live broadcast from the clinic.

Saakashvili’s lawyer Shalva Khachapuridze, however, told a different story, accusing the Special Penitentiary Service of failing to send the required link.

“They had a technician, they had to get a link from the penitentiary service and a court employee was also supposed to come [to the clinic], but no one came. The Special Penitentiary Service is responsible,” Khachapuridze told journalists.

After learning of the latest delay, Saakashvili declared a hunger strike. A few hours later, however, he canceled it to defuse the government’s claims that he has intentionally engineered his current health crisis.

"Now I received a message from the European parliamentarians, who categorically ask me to stop the hunger strike at this stage, so as not to give any excuse to the relevant services, as if I am doing myself harm,” Saakashvili wrote in another message from his hospital bed. “I am sick not because I forced myself to stop eating, but because I have been poisoned, which was also reflected in the discussion of the European parliamentarians.”

Saakashvili was arrested in October of 2021 when he unexpectedly returned to Georgia from self-imposed exile despite facing criminal charges from the current authorities. In May, the former president was moved from prison to a private medical clinic, suffering from “protein starvation.” Several outstanding criminal cases against him have been on hold since then.