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Ukrainian Ombudswoman Not Allowed To See Saakashvili

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukrainian ombudswoman, in Georgia (file photo)
Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukrainian ombudswoman, in Georgia (file photo)

TBILISI -- Ukraine's ombudswoman has been barred from seeing hunger striking former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is a Ukrainian citizen, in a prison hospital in Georgia.

Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said on November 16 that Lyudmyla Denisova cannot visit Saakashvili, as "Georgian law does not envision" such a visit.

"There is no need for that and we do not have such an obligation," Bregadze said, adding that Saakashvili’s health condition is satisfactory and there is no reason for concern.

Bregadze also criticized Denisova for an earlier statement she made after meeting with Saakashvili earlier last month. In the comments, she quoted Saakashvili as saying that he was being denied medical assistance.

"The last time Mrs. Denisova met [with Saakashvili], she made a one-sided statement. She did not even ask us if the information was true," Bregadze said.

After learning of the denial of her visit on November 16, Denisova said she will now try to meet with the administration and physicians of the penitentiary hospital to get concrete information on Saakashvili's health.

"At this point, we have controversial information regarding Saakashvili's health and the possible ways to assist him in case his health state dramatically worsens," Denisova told journalists, adding that Bregadze had not responded to her request to meet with him personally.

Denisova arrived in Tbilisi a day earlier saying that Saakashvili told her personally that his state of health had worsened.

Georgian authorities had already denied several European politicians to visit Saakashvili.

On November 15, Georgia's Special Penitentiary Service (SPS) also barred Saakashvili from attending his own trial on embezzlement charges, saying it would create a security risk and worsen the former president's health as he is in the seventh week of a hunger strike.

Last week, Saakashvili was similarly not allowed to be present at a hearing in a different court case against him, this one over his role in the violent dispersal of opposition protesters in November 2007.

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 for 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 the politician's transfer to a civilian medical clinic as his health fails due to the hunger strike.

The government has refused to transfer Saakashvili, instead placing him in a prison hospital.