KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s president told Georgia’s leader on Friday to refrain from “disproportionate coercive measures” against jailed, hunger-striking former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who holds Ukrainian citizenship he obtained while in exile.
Saakashvili, Georgia’s president for nine years until 2013, was arrested on Oct. 1 after returning to his native country to rally the opposition on the eve of municipal elections. He faces six years jail for abuse of office, from a 2018 trial held in absentia which he rejects as political.
Georgian authorities on Monday transferred the 53-year-old politician to a prison hospital in the capital Tbilisi, just over five weeks after he declared a hunger strike in jail.
Georgian media showed Saakashvili being dragged out of a prison car and carried by the arms and legs to the ward of the prison hospital.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili by telephone, and said Saakashvili’s rights should be guaranteed in accordance with international norms, Zelenskiy’s office said.
“The president highlighted the inadmissibility of applying disproportionate coercive measures to a citizen of Ukraine,” the office said in a statement.
It added that Zelenskiy also focused on the need to provide access to Saakashvili for his mother and relatives.
Saakashvili was Georgia’s dominant political figure for a decade, led the country during a disastrous war with Russia, and founded the party that is now Georgia’s main opposition group.
In Ukraine, he launched a new political career and has served as a regional governor and head of a reform advisory body.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Peter Graff)