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Mikheil Saakashvili: The former Georgian president’s condition has sparked concern

World leaders have called for the release of jailed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili after he appeared emaciated at a court hearing.

Mr Saakashvili – who appeared via video at Wednesday’s hearing – has been in a Georgian prison since October 2021.

He was convicted of committing abuses of power while in office. He says the charges were politically motivated.

Since his imprisonment, his health has deteriorated significantly and he has alleged he was poisoned by authorities.

Mr Saakashvili was arrested in 2021 after making a surprise return to Georgia by smuggling himself into the country on a ferry from Ukraine. He called for mass anti-government demonstrations, but was quickly arrested by Georgian authorities.

He was convicted in absentia of abuses of power while in office.

The Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said he was self-harming and his condition was a result of his refusal to eat.

Mr Saakashvili’s medical team said his weight had dropped from 115kg (254 pounds) to 68kg (150 pounds) since his imprisonment.

Among the world leaders calling for his release were Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said authorities were “torturing and killing” him.

During a press conference, Mr Zelensky said he believed the current Georgian government was trying “to kill” Mr Saakashvili.

Mr Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, and spoke only in Ukrainian at his court appearance, wearing a t-shirt with “I am Ukrainian” printed on it. He also served as the governor of the western province of Odesa between 2015 and 2016.

The Moldovan President Maia Sandu also called for Mr Saakashvili’s immediate release;

“Torturing an opposition leader to death is unacceptable for a country that wants to join the European Union,” she wrote in a tweet.

Empathy, an organisation supporting victims of torture in Georgia, alleged on 1 December that Mr Saakashvili had been diagnosed with illnesses “incompatible with imprisonment” and that Georgian and foreign medical experts had found evidence of heavy-metal poisoning.

On Thursday, the European Parliament debated Mr Saakashvili’s health, where the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, said the Georgian government was obliged to provide him appropriate healthcare.

Late last year, Mr Saakashvili gave French President Emmanuel Macron a hand-written note reading: “SOS. I am dying, I have very little time left.”

Georgian authorities have said Mr Saakasvhili is feigning his condition to secure a release from prison, and have accused him of self-harming.

Source : BBC