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Saakashvili Supporters Again Demand Transfer To Civilian Clinic

Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili march in Tbilisi on November 12.
Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili march in Tbilisi on November 12.

TBILISI -- Hundreds of supporters of jailed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili have gathered in the capital to hold rallies demanding the politician's transfer to a civilian medical clinic as his health fails due to a hunger strike.

Two groups of protesters organized by Saakashvili's United National Movement (ENM) party marched on November 12 in Tbilisi from two different subway stations toward the Health Ministry and the Justice Ministry holding posters saying "Free Misha!" and chanting "Misha! Georgia!"

A significant number of police were deployed at the sites, while the demonstrators demanded the health and justice ministers meet with them.

The day before, Saakashvili agreed to follow a call by the European Court of Human Rights to end his hunger strike if he is transferred to a civilian clinic.

Saakashvili began the strike immediately after he was arrested on October 1 upon his return to Georgian after an eight-year absence.

Health Minister Rati Bregadze has said he will not transfer Saakashvili to a civilian clinic. Instead, he has said the 53-year-old will be transferred back to the Rustavi detention center from which he was transferred to a prison hospital on November 8.

The ENM has held several rallies and protest actions in recent days demanding Saakashvili's transfer to a civilian facility.

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 for abuse of power and seeking to cover up evidence about the beating of an opposition member of parliament.

He is also accused of ordering the violent dispersal of opposition activists in 2007 while he was in office. The trial in that case started on November 10 without Saakashvili's presence in the courtroom.

Saakashvili has said all the charges against him are politically motivated.

Georgia has been mired in a political standoff since a disputed election last year, which prompted the ENM to boycott parliament for months.

The ENM was outpolled decisively by the ruling Georgian Dream party in October 3 nationwide municipal and mayoral votes.

Georgian Dream, founded by billionaire and Saakashvili rival Bidzina Ivanishvili, won the mayoral races in the country's five biggest cities as a result of the vote, which some opposition parties have alleged was rigged.

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