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Protesters gather in Georgia for jailed former president, Saakashvili

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By Philip Andrew Churm
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Protesters gather in Georgia for jailed former president, Saakashvili
Copyright  Zurab Tsertsvadze/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Protesters erected tents outside a prison in Georgia on Saturday and some went on hunger strike.

The action was to show solidarity with jailed former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

They demanded that Saakashvili, who is officially on hunger strike, be transferred to a private clinic because he is getting weaker.

The former president was jailed at the start of October on his return to Georgia, having been convicted in his absence of charges relating to abuses of power.

Footage provided by the Georgian Prison Service shows a man alleged to be the former president, currently on hunger strike. According to officials, the man is given juice and food for medical purposes.

Supporters claim that Saakashvili's health has seriously deteriorated while in prison, but Georgian authorities say his vital signs are normal.

The demonstrators, in front of Rustavi prison, held Georgian flags and banners and vowed to hold more protests until they reached their goal.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013, following the end of his presidency, due to term limits.

He was later stripped of his citizenship and sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.

Saakashvili and his supporters maintain that the cases were politically motivated.