TBILISI -- Georgia's Special Penitentiary Service has again barred former President Mikheil Saakashvili from attending his trial on embezzlement charges, saying it created a security risk.
In a statement issued hours before a hearing on November 15, the service added that Saakashvili, who is in the seventh week of a hunger strike to protest his arrest on a different charge, also cannot be present in the courtroom due to his poor state of heath.
Saakashvili's trial on November 15 on embezzlement charges comes a week after a hearing in a court case against him over his role in the violent dispersal of opposition protesters in November 2007. He was not allowed to attend that trial either.
The trial that started on November 15 was adjourned until December 2 after Saakashvili's lawyers again demanded their client’s presence in the courtroom.
Meanwhile, activists of Saakashvili's United National Movement (ENM) party and his supporters marched in Tbilisi, demanding his immediate transfer to a civilian clinic.
Several lawmakers announced on November 15 that they have started hunger strikes to support Saakashvili.
Saakashvili was arrested on October 1 for allegedly illegally entering Georgia when he returned after an eight-year absence.
Saakashvili, who was president from 2004 to 2013, left the country shortly after the presidential election of 2013 and was convicted in absentia in 2018 of abuse of power and seeking to cover up evidence about the beating of an opposition member of parliament.
Saakashvili has said all of the charges against him are politically motivated. His supporters have been protesting his arrest since early October. They have been demanding his transfer to a civilian medical clinic as his health fails due to the hunger strike.
The government has refused to transfer Saakasahvili, instead placing him in a prison hospital.