The United National Movement, the largest opposition party is planning the first major post-election rally in Tbilisi this evening, where the demand to transfer hunger striking jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili to a civilian hospital is expected to overshadow the protest over the contested runoffs.
UNM’s first post-election protest originally slated for Tbilisi on November 6 was held outside Rustavi prison instead, where incarcerated former President Saakashvili is into second month of his hunger strike. At the rally, the UNM gave the authorities 24-hour ultimatum to transfer Saakashvili to a civilian hospital — a demand, the Georgian Dream Government continue to reject.
Announcing the rally in Tbilisi for today, Nika Melia, the UNM chairperson said on November 7 “the captivity of Saakashvili today is the most vivid example that Georgia stands at the crossroads of history: the West or Russia. [Pro]-western Georgia demands the release of Saakashvili, while we see that [pro]-Russian Georgia is happy with his captivity, waiting for his death.”
The UNM chairperson said the survival of Saakashvili determines which historic choice Georgia makes, “[whether] we choose the West or Russia.”
“We do simply have no other right but to win,” Melia went on, adding that “there is a risk we turn into an authoritarian banana republic, drowning in poverty, that is a mere vassal [state] fulfilling Russia’s desire.”
“We are fighting to return stolen elections and captured state back. This fight is universal, in no case that of one party,” Melia asserted.
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The issue of transferring jailed Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, on a hunger strike since October 1, the day of his arrest on the eve of local elections, to a medical facility has triggered controversy over past weeks.
The government says the former President will be taken to the No.18 prison hospital if his condition worsens. The decision is strongly opposed by Saakashvili himself, his personal doctor, defense lawyers, and the Public Defender who, citing various healthcare and safety reasons, have recommended former President’s transfer to a private hospital.
Meanwhile, opposition Droa party leader Elene Khoshtaria is on hunger strike in the Parliament building since November 3, demanding Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital.