Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced on February 21 that he will begin a hunger strike for the second time since his imprisonment on October 1, 2021.
Saakashvili, who had been in self-imposed exile for 8 years before returning to Georgia in October, stated that he will refuse all rations until he receives adequate medical care. The former president claims that prison officials have prevented his personal doctors from treating health issues arising from his first hunger strike, which lasted from his arrest on October 1 until November 19.
Before serving as president from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili emerged as the leader of the 2003 “Rose Revolution,” a pro-Western protest movement which led to the resignation of then-President Eduard Shevardnadze.
Saakashvili announced his second hunger strike in court, where he is facing charges from 2014 of abuse of power and embezzlement. Prosecutors allege that Saakashvili ordered police to violently disperse antigovernment protests in 2007. Saakashvili, who had been out of the country when charged in 2014, sought refuge in Ukraine from 2014 to 2021.
Saakashvili has called the charges baseless and politically motivated. Georgia’s western allies, including the United States, share many of Saakashvili’s concerns. The United States Department of State issued a statement on November 18 urging the Georgian government to treat the former president with dignity and to respect his right to a fair trial.
In November, Georgia’s human rights ombudsman stated that the first hunger strike left Saakashvili in “critical condition,” while the Public Defender of Georgia noted that the former president was at risk of heart failure. Given the state of Saakashvili’s health at the end of his first strike, a second could prove even more dangerous.