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European Parliament: Ex-President Saakashvili's death in custody would be blow to Georgia's democracy

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 16, 2023 1:22 AM 2 min read
Former president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters hold portraits and Georgia, USA, Ukraine, and EU flags in the center of Tbilisi on Dec. 21, 2021 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Saakashvili, Georgia's third president, was arrested, on October 1, 2021, upon returning to his country after nine years in exile to rally the opposition on the eve of local elections. (Aziz Karimov/Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

The Georgian government's continued failure to improve former President Mikheil Saakashvili's deteriorating situation in prison is putting Gerogia's reputation and European Union aspirations at risk, the European Parliament said in a resolution on Feb. 15.

Saakashvili was arrested in October 2021 after returning to Georgia from exile and jailed on what he says are trumped-up charges of abuse of office and embezzlement.

"The continuing failure to improve the situation of former President Mikheil Saakashvili will continue to damage Georgia’s reputation and hamper its European Union candidacy prospects," the resolution reads.

"Mikheil Saakashvili’s death in custody would be a blow to Georgian democracy and to Georgia’s international reputation."

Georgia applied for EU membership last month at the same time as Ukraine and Moldova, but was not granted candidate status, unlike the latter two. Georgia's ruling Dream party has not shown enthusiasm for implementing the necessary reforms in order to get candidate status.

The European Parliament resolution also mentions a toxicology report that found that Saakashvili had suffered heavy metal poisoning while in detention and another medical examination that found the former president was suffering from 20 disorders, 10 of them serious.

He has gone on a hunger strike twice since his arrest and has also reportedly suffered significant weight loss, and is unable to move with help.

Saakashvili’s hunger strike in Georgia, explained

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 1 said he believes the "Georgian government is killing" Saakashvili. Earlier, Zelensky called for his release to a clinic outside of the country. Georgian courts have so far refused to release Saakashvili.

After the rival Georgian Dream party came to power in Georgia in 2012-2013, Saakashvili moved to Ukraine. Then President Petro Poroshenko appointed him as head of an advisory reform council and governor of Odesa Oblast in 2015.

When Saakashvili started exposing corruption schemes and fell out with Poroshenko, he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship, prosecuted, and then deported by the Ukrainian authorities in 2018 in what he believes to be an unlawful political vendetta.

In 2019 Zelensky was elected president and restored Saakashvili's Ukrainian citizenship. In 2020 Zelensky appointed the ex-Georgian president as head of Ukraine's Executive Council for Reforms.

Saakashvili returned to Georgia in 2021 in an effort to boost support for the opposition and was jailed.

The European Parliament also adopted an amendment to the resolution that "underlines the fundamental role of the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili in Mikheil Saakashvili’s ongoing detention as part of a personal vendetta."

Before Ukraine, there was Georgia: How Russia recycles its 2008 playbook
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