Jailed ex-Georgian leader appears in court by video link, seeking ...

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[1/3] Georgia’s jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili is seen on a screen via a video link from a clinic during a court hearing to consider a request from Saakashvili’s legal team to release him or defer his six-year sentence for abuse of power over health concerns, in Tbilisi, Georgia, February 1, 2023. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

TBILISI, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Mikheil Saakashvili, the jailed former president of Georgia, appeared in court via video link on Wednesday to show how much weight he has lost while incarcerated, as associates renewed calls for him to be freed for urgent medical treatment.

Saakashvili, 55, was sent to prison in 2021 for six years on charges of abusing his power while president, a charge he has denied and says is politically motivated.

His health has deteriorated significantly in prison, where he has staged repeated hunger strikes and alleges he was poisoned. He is currently being held and treated in a clinic in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

In a court hearing on Wednesday at which his team called for him to be allowed to travel abroad to receive medical treatment, he lifted up his T-shirt to show the judge how much weight he had lost in prison.

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Citing his medical records, Saakashvili’s team says his weight has dropped more than 40% from 115 kilograms (254 pounds) when he was jailed in October 2021 to 68 kilograms (150 pounds) at a check-up earlier this week.

His supporters say authorities are denying him proper medical treatment. Georgian authorities say he is feigning the gravity of his condition in order to secure early release.

A spokesman for Saakashvili, a pro-Western reformer who ran the ex-Soviet republic from 2004 to 2013 and lost a brief war with Russia in 2008 over the status of breakaway regions, told Reuters on Tuesday he was in a “life-threatening condition”.

In Wednesday’s hearing, Saakashvili spoke Ukrainian, wore a T-shirt with “I’m Ukrainian” printed across the front in English, and said he wanted to be buried in Kyiv should he die before he is released from prison, according to an Interfax translation of his statement.

After leaving power, Saakashvili worked with various Ukrainian administrations, including as an adviser on reforms to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and as governor of the southern Odesa region. His supporters accuse the current Georgian government of adopting a pro-Kremlin position and of refusing to sufficiently back Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

Reporting by Jake Cordell
Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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