TBILISI – Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike for almost a month, has a “right to commit suicide” amid concerns about his deteriorating health.
The opposition, doctors, and Saakashvili’s lawyers have been calling on the ruling Georgian Dream government to move the former leader to a private hospital to receive treatment, something Garibashvili ruled out.
“The law says an individual has the right to commit suicide,” Garibashvili said in a late-night televised interview on October 28.
“If an individual decides to kill themselves, they can…the state cannot take responsibility for this,” he added.
Garibashvili also said Saakashvili could be moved to a prison hospital but not transferred to a private hospital due to security concerns.
“[Saakashvili’s supporters] plan to mobilize thousands of people [near the private clinic.] We will have to bring police, use impact munitions, and be put into a permanent state chaos and disturbance,” Garibashvili said.
Garibashvili said that his government will neither grant early release to Saakashvili nor hand him to Ukraine, where he is a citizen. Dozens of European lawmakers and other current and former politicians have called for his release.
Saakashvili was arrested on October 1 for what Georgian law enforcement agencies called illegally crossing the border. The arrest, which the 53-year-old politician says was politically motivated, came hours after he announced he had returned to the country following an eight-year absence.
He immediately went on a hunger strike to protest his arrest, which has triggered protests by tens of thousands of his supporters in the capital, Tbilisi.
Saakashvili’s detention has deepened a protracted political crisis in Georgia ahead of a second round of municipal elections scheduled for October 30.
Ahead of the local elections, Saakashvili called on Georgians to vote for the opposition.
In a letter sent through his lawyer on October 29, Saakashvili said "the continuation of my life is entirely tied to your decision tomorrow and the victory of Georgia."
“Every person’s participation is extremely important. Also, I would like to ask you to gather again tomorrow evening at the polling stations to protect the votes... The fate of Georgia and my fate are in your hands now," the letter said.
Saakashvili served as the South Caucasus country's president from 2004 and 2013. He was sentenced in 2018 in absentia to a total of nine years in prison after being convicted of abuse of power in two separate cases. The ex-president has rejected all charges as politically motivated.