Georgian authorities blocking transfer of ex-president to intensive care, supporters say
By Jake Cordell
TBILISI (Reuters) -Allies of Mikheil Saakashvili, the jailed former president of Georgia, said on Tuesday authorities were refusing to move him to an intensive care unit despite his condition being “life-threatening” and doctors saying he needs urgent treatment.
Saakashvili, who led the former Soviet republic as a pro-Western reformer from 2004 to 2013, is serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power, a charge he and his supporters say was politically motivated.
His medical team says his health has deteriorated significantly since he went to prison in October, 2021, where he staged repeated hunger strikes. He is being treated in a Tbilisi clinic, but his lawyers have sought to have his sentence suspended so that he can be transferred abroad.
Saakashvili, 55, had been due to be transferred to an intensive care unit on Tuesday, a family spokesman and political ally Giorgi Chaladze told Reuters – but the transfer was blocked at the last minute.
Chaladze was previously quoted by Georgian TV as telling reporters Saakashvili had already been transferred to the ICU.
“He is in a life-threatening situation, he needs intensive critical care. His immune system is failing. Blood tests done yesterday show he has zero immunity. Even a person who sneezes near him can make him sick,” Chaladze said in a telephone interview.
During a visit to see Saakashvili on Tuesday, Chaladze said he was told by medical staff they were preparing a space in the ICU for him – a room 30 metres from where he is currently being held.
However, that transfer was blocked, Chaladze says, because Georgian authorities do not want to transfer Saakasvhili as it could “provide legal grounds for him to be freed … or at least free from the penitentiary system”.
He added: “If we were in Munich, or Istanbul or Kyiv … or anywhere else, even in Georgia, if he wasn’t a political prisoner he would be transferred to the ICU as normal,” he said.
Zurab Chkhaidze, the head of the Vivamedi clinic where Saakashvili is being treated, denied the ex-leader was in a critical condition, saying his “vital signs” were stable and he had tested negative for COVID-19.
Georgian officials – from a rival political party – say Saakasvhili is simulating his illness in an attempt to secure an early release from prison.
(Additional reporting by David Chkhikvishvili; Editing by Ed Osmond and Gareth Jones)