12 Nov 2021 10:23

Georgian justice minister: If Saakashvili ends hunger strike, he'll be sent back to Rustavi prison

TBILISI. Nov 12 (Interfax) - Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze welcomes the desire of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, currently in jail, to end his hunger strike, but believes that he should not put forth any conditions, including the demand to transfer him to a civilian clinic.

"Why should this person be transferred to a civilian clinic? Can anyone explain that to me?" Bregadze told the Georgian television channel Rustavi-2 on Thursday evening when commenting on Saakashvili's statement that he will be ready to end his hunger strike only if he is moved to a civilian clinic.

At the same time, the minister said he would be pleased if Saakashvili terminated his hunger strike following a call from the European Court of Human Rights for him to do so, but he should do so without demanding any concessions.

If he ends his hunger strike, the ex-president will be returned to Penitentiary No. 2 in Rustavi, where he was initially sent, as there will be no risks that his health might worsen, Bregadze said.

"We will be very glad if his state of health is stable and if he returns to a normal pace of life," he said.

Saakashvili's possible presence at a session of the Tbilisi City Court on November 15 will depend on his state of health and the security factor, Bregadze said.

"It depends on Saakashvili's state of health and on the security factor," Bregadze told Rustavi-2.

As reported, the Tbilisi City Court tried Saakashvili in absentia on Wednesday over the dispersal of a peaceful rally in November 7, 2007, the seizure of the Imedi television company, and the criminal takeover of late businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili's assets, as Georgia's Special Penitentiary Service refused to bring the ex-president to the court building, citing security risks that might have emerged during his transportation from the prison hospital to court. This decision of the Special Penitentiary Service drew protest from Saakashvili's lawyers, who claim that the former president was ready to attend the trial even despite his hunger strike and getting weaker due to it.

The Justice Ministry, in turn, said that the Prosecutor's Office suggested at the court session that Saakashvili could attend by video link, but the defense team rejected this idea.

The next court session in the case is due to take place on November 29. Saakashvili faces charges of abuse of office and could be given a sentence of from five to eight years in prison if found guilty.

Meanwhile, the trial set for November 15 will focus on financial abuse charges as part of a case which was opened in 2014 on suspicion that Saakashvili used state budget funds to finance his personal needs, thus embezzling nine million lari, or some $3 million.