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Jailed ex-Georgian president back on hunger strike to demand medical treatment

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By Euronews  with AFP
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gestures speaking from a defendant's dock during a court hearing in Tbilisi, Georgia, Dec. 2, 2021.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gestures speaking from a defendant's dock during a court hearing in Tbilisi, Georgia, Dec. 2, 2021.   -   Copyright  Irakli Gedenidze/Pool Photo via AP   -  

Georgia's former president and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday announced that he is starting a new hunger strike to protest against his prison conditions.

"I am starting a hunger strike," Saakashvili told a court in Tbilisi, asking to receive "adequate medical care" in prison. The former leader of the Caucasus country has been jailed since October following a conviction for abuse of power, which he describes as political.

Saakashvili, 54, carried out a 50-day hunger strike following his arrest on October 1 after he returned to the country. He stopped it after developing a neurological condition called Wernicke's encephalopathy, which is caused by vitamin B deficiency and can result in confusion, inability to coordinate voluntary movement and eye abnormalities.

He returned to prison from a military hospital on 30 December which his lawyers denounced as premature, stating that he was "no longer communicative and could not move on his own."

An independent board of doctors said then that the former president was still suffering from severe neurological problems, which they said were the result of ill-treatment in detention.

Saakashvili said his new hunger strike was to obtain neurological treatment announced his new hunger strike as well as to denounce the authorities' decision to prevent his personal doctor from visiting him in prison.

President from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili left the country for Ukraine after his second term ended and was later convicted in absentia of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison.

Saakashvili's arrest exacerbated a political crisis following the 2020 parliamentary elections, which the ruling Georgian Dream party narrowly won and the opposition called fraudulent.

Human rights activists accuse the Georgian government of using criminal proceedings to punish political opponents.