Georgian President Saakashvili

Former Georgian President Saakashvili Present As Trial Resumes In Tbilisi

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TBILISI — The trial of Mikheil Saakashvili has resumed at the Tbilisi City Court, with the former Georgian president questioning the validity of the proceedings while his supporters skirmished with police outside.

A special penitentiary vehicle accompanied by four pickup trucks and a helicopter hovering above left the military hospital compound in Gori, where Saakashvili is being held, before arriving in Tbilisi on November 29, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the scene.

The only media outlet allowed into the hearing was the state broadcaster’s First Channel. According to reports from the court, Saakashvili said before the hearing that he does not recognize the prosecutor’s office, nor the Georgian judiciary, and that his trial on charges of abuse of power over the dispersal of a rally in November 2007 is part of a “pre-written comedy.”

Saakashvili says all the charges against him are politically motivated.

RFE/RL correspondents at the courthouse reported minor clashes between security forces and Saakashvili’s supporters, with police allegedly using pepper spray on the crowd.

The former president, who ended a hunger strike on November 20 after seven weeks, was visited on November 28 by Mariam Jishkariani, director of the Empathy rehabilitation center. She said that Saakashvili’s mental health should not prevent him from attending the trial, though she said a preliminary assessment indicated that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This is associated with torture while in prison, Jishkariani said.

The assessment also indicated encephalopathy, which is the result of starvation, and concluded that Saakashvili needs in-patient multidisciplinary treatment and rehabilitation.

Earlier this month, Saakashvili was moved from a prison in the city of Rustavi to the Gldani prison clinic, where he claimed he was verbally and physically abused by guards.

He had demanded to be taken to a civilian hospital. Instead, the government proposed that he be moved to the military hospital in Gori, located about 70 kilometers from the capital, Tbilisi.

Saakashvili, who founded the main opposition United National Movement (ENM), was arrested on October 1 when he returned after an eight-year absence to rally the opposition ahead of local elections.

Saakashvili served as Georgia’s president from 2004 until 2013. In January 2018, he was convicted in absentia in Georgia of abuse of office and sentenced to three years in prison. In June 2018, he was again convicted in absentia of abuse of office and sentenced to six years in prison.

Saakashvili and his supporters say the prosecutions were politically motivated.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

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