Indepth

Timeline: Saakashvili Imprisonment & Hunger Strike

Georgian authorities arrested former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 1, after he secretly arrived in the country following years in exile. He has been on a hunger strike since and was transferred to a prison hospital in Gldani, Tbilisi, against his will on November 8. The ex-President has been convicted on two separate charges in absentia, and he awaits trial on three other charges, including the illegal border crossing. Read more about the charges and related controversies here.

The timeline is regularly updated to add new developments. The last update happened on November 30, 2021

October 1, 2021 

  • In the morning hours, days after having announced to return for the October 2 local elections, Saakashvili says on his Facebook page about arriving in Georgia. Low-quality videos follow showing him walking in the streets of Batumi, Adjara region. The government firmly denies the reports about the ex-President’s arrival, with some representatives of the ruling party locating him in an Ukrainian resort.
  • In the evening hours of the same day, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili says in a press briefing authorities have arrested Saakashvili, with footage emerging in media showing the ex-President taken into the No.12 Rustavi prison.
  • Reports of Saakashvili going on a hunger strike.
  • Late on the same day, President Salome Zurabishvili says she will never pardon Saakashvili.

October 2, 2021

  • Municipal elections are held in Georgia, with mayoral races in twenty municipalities going to runoffs. Georgian Dream scores over 46% in the nationwide proportional vote, but fails to secure a one-party majority in some municipalities, some others depend on runoffs. The United National Movement, Saakashvili’s party, comes second with 30,7%. Saakashvili’s arrival impacted the polarized outcomes of the first-round vote, experts argue.
  • Int’l Observers: Polls Competetive, Marred by Allegations of Violations 

October 3, 2021

  • One charged with concealment of a serious crime without prior promise, for allegedly providing flat to Saakashvili in Tbilisi (where he was detained) after he secretly entered Georgia.

October 4, 2021

  • Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili says “[Saakashvili’d better] behave, otherwise, we will bring more articles [charges against him],” sparking controversy and raising questions about possible political motivations in prosecuting the former President. The PM also alleges provocation plotted by Saakashvili for October 3 involving killings of opposition leaders.
  • Two more suspected accomplices charged with concealment of a serious crime for allegedly transporting Saakashvili, who “illegally crossed the border on September 29.”
  • Protests erupt demanding the release of the former President.
  • U.S. Urges ‘Fair Treatment’ of Saakashvili

October 6, 2021

  • PM Garibashvili issues a wordy statement exploring motives behind Saakashvili’s return, assuming the ex-President hoped to overthrow the government.

October 8, 2021

  • Former President and Saakashvili’s successor Giorgi Margvelashvili says his predecessor “is imprisoned on political grounds under the circumstances of the current government,” which he says is “authoritarian” and “no longer has the moral right” to try Saakashvili.

October 10, 2021

  • Saakashvili’s personal doctor Nikoloz Kipshidze says ex-President’s health is deteriorating due to the hunger strike. The Special Penitentiary Service denies. The doctor says a rare blood disorder – thalassemia – exacerbates Saakashvili’s condition.

October 13, 2021

  • The government says it created a “multi-functional” medical council to assess the health of hunger-striking Saakashvili.

October 14, 2021

  • Many thousands gather in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square demanding the release of Saakashvili in what is believed to be one of the largest opposition rallies after the Georgian Dream came to office in 2012.
  • The Polish Foreign Ministry and lawmakers raise concerns over the reports of Saakashvili’s declining health; Polish MPs urge relevant western institutions to take action and “persuade the Georgian authorities to release [Saakashvili] immediately.”

October 17, 2021

  • Patriarchal locum tenens Shio Mujiri of the Georgian Orthodox Church speaks against “reconciliation.” The sermon follows the calls for national reconciliation and forgiveness by several senior clergymen amid Saakashvili’s return and his arrest.

October 18, 2021 

  • Multiple members of the European Parliament, Lithuanian MPs as well as former leaders of Latvia, Ukraine, and Sweden call for Saakashvili’s release. The letter, addressed at EU leaders, says Saakashvili’s imprisonment should be suspended until he faces trial “in fair judicial proceedings,” suggesting putting in place “some element of international observation” to calm tensions in the meantime.

October 19, 2021

  • 5 MEPs raise questions about the “political nature of the persecution” against Saakashvili in a joint statement.
  • PM Garibashvili says on Saakashvili’s imprisonment and criticism from MEPs that “no one can obstruct the administration of justice, no matter how many MEPs come forward.” “What matters to us is what our people say,” he adds.

October 20, 2021

  • Saakashvili says he is “a spiritual son” and a supporter of Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II, noting this statement is made in a response to a provocation “obviously” inspired by Russia.
  • Another suspected accomplice is detained as part of Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing probe on charges of concealment of a serious crime without prior promise.
  • Saakashvili is charged with illegal crossing of the state border.
  • PM Garibashvili and Irakli Kobakhidze, GD Chair, lash out at MEPs over their concerns about Saakashvili’s imprisonment.
  • Justice Minister Rati Bregadze talks about transferring Saakashvili to a prison hospital in Gldani, Tbilisi, should his health deteriorate, sparking a series of controversies over ex-President’s safety concerns there.

October 21, 2021

  • EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell: MEPs raising concern over ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention “play an important role in the European Parliament on foreign policy issues, including on the Eastern Partnership region and Georgia.”

October 24, 2021

  • Public Defender Nino Lomjaria says that the conditions in No.18 Gldani prison hospital, where authorities are considering transferring Saakashvili, in terms of medical care, “do not fully comply” with the report or recommendations issued by the doctors’ council. She also pointed at “certain” safety risks for the ex-President due to his possible placement in the ward which accommodates prisoners who have a conflict of interest with Saakashvili.
  • PM Garibashvili speaks about the plans of Saakashvili’s supporters to remove the former President from the civilian clinic and “liberate” him.
  • Medical authorities claim the prison hospital is well-equipped to manage Saakashvili’s health condition.

October 27, 2021

  • Ukrainian Ombudsperson Lyudmyla Denisova visits Saakashvili in prison, appeals to the Georgian authorities to transfer the former President to a civilian hospital, and raises concerns about the breach of Saakashvili’s right to fair trial.
  • Prominent Ukrainian journalists Dmitry Gordon and Alesia Batsman, as well as lawyer Evgen Grushovets report they were not allowed to enter Georgia and were turned back from Tbilisi airport. They said they hoped to meet Saakashvili in prison.

October 28, 2021

  • Asked about the possible “finale” of hunger-striking Saakashvili, PM Garibashvili replies “the law says an individual has the right to suicide”, triggering outrage. He later steps back, saying he misspoke and meant to say “right to hunger strike.”

October 29, 2021

  • The State Security Service of Georgia starts probe into alleged coup conspiracy supposedly involving UNM members, with alleged plots of “destructive actions,” including blocking the path to Gldani prison hospital to “cause chaos and uncontrollable situation” and obstruct Saakashvili’s transfer.

October 30, 2021

  • Georgia holds municipal election runoffs.

October 31, 2021

November 1, 2021

  • Declaring the local elections “stolen from us in every big city,” Saakashvili calls for protests to “take back power” from the GD government and “make them answer to the law.” He also urged the opposition to leave the Parliament.

November 3, 2021

  • Droa party leader Elene Khoshtaria goes on a hunger strike in the Parliament building demanding Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital.

November 4, 2021

  • Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II calls on jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili to end the hunger strike.

November 5, 2021

  • Clarifying questions over Saakashvili’s treatment, the State Inspector’s Service, a body authorized to monitor personal data protection and probe abuse of power, speaks about the positive obligations of authorities in protecting the life and health of an inmate. The inspector points to the strict confidentiality of health-related data, warning against sharing details amid public interest.
  • Justice Minister Rati Bregadze says that hunger-striking Saakashvili takes “purees” and “natural juices” along with prescribed medications. He says he was obligated to answer an MP’s query about this matter.

November 6, 2021

  • The State Security Service of Georgia claims organizers of the opposition rallies “actively consider” liquidation of one of the opposition leaders.
  • The Special Penitentiary Service publishes footage of Saakashvili purporting to show the ex-President taking in sustenance in the N12 Rustavi prison’s medical facility. The Public Defender, citing medical and prison records, dismisses allegations of ex-President breaking the hunger strike, slamming the Penitentiary for disseminating incorrect information which may lead to inmates refusing necessary medications and fluids.

November 7, 2021

  • Saakashvili says he stopped taking prescribed supplements on the morning of November 6.
  • State Inspector says it probes lawfulness of obtaining and disseminating the footage showing Saakashvili taking in sustenance.

November 8, 2021

  • The Penitentiary Service says Saakashvili was transferred to Gldani hospital citing “growing threats” and prevention of health deterioration. The statement comes after ex-President’s whereabouts were unknown to his family and lawyers for about an hour, at least.
  • The opposition hold the pre-announced rally in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the transfer of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili to a civilian hospital, his release, and to have the “stolen [local] elections returned.”
  • The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine calls on the Georgian authorities to “immediately transport” Mikheil Saakashvili to a civilian hospital that would have “all the necessary facilities to provide proper medical care and emergency care.”
  • In videos shot from outside the Gldani prison facility, inmates are heard shouting swearwords and insults at Saakashvili.
  • Justice Minister Rati Bregadze accuses the ex-President of physically and verbally assaulting the staff of the Gldani prison.
  • The public Defender’s representative says that inmates shouting insults are heard in the patient’s room as well. Public Defender cites Saakashvili as saying that he was deceitfully transferred to the prison hospital and forcibly taken into the building.
  • The penitentiary posts a video to show Saakashvili voluntarily left the Rustavi prison facility he was held before.
  • Ukrainian MPs Address Georgian President, PM Over Saakashvili
  • Saakashvili Ordeal: Why Prison Facilities Matter?

November 9, 2021

  • The Public Defender’s Office: Saakashvili’s placement in prison hospital “clearly violates the state’s obligation to respect human dignity;“ notes that at least since January 18, 2021, no other detainees have been transferred to the Gldani prison hospital from the No.12 Rustavi prison, where convicted former officials are held.
  • The State Inspector’s Service said it launched an investigation into “the possible inhumane treatment” of the former President.
  • Kobakhidze hits out on Public Defender
  • U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan urges the Georgian government to ensure that Saakashvili is immediately provided with “medical care that he needs in a fully equipped medical facility, citing Public Defender’s reports about Gldani prison hospital being under-equipped for this purpose.
  • U.S. State Department: treat Saakashvili fairly, with dignity
  • EU Ambassador, MEPs, react to Saakashvili detention developments
  • Amnesty International criticizes Saakashvili’s treatment by Georgian authorities.

November 10, 2021

  • Giorgi Gogia, Associate Director of Europe and Central Asia Division at the Human Rights Watch, says Saakashvili’s rights to a fair trial, healthcare, privacy, and dignity are “at risk.”
  • CSOs call for Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital.
  • Penitentiary Service denies Saakashvili the right to transfer to the court to attend his trial, citing coup conspiracy and health concerns.
  • European Court for Human Rights delivers a decision on the application for interim measures to transfer Saakashvili to a civilian hospital and urges government to provide information by November 24. ECtHR, while not ordering Saakashvili’s transfer, urges him to call off his hunger strike, but also says the government should inform the Court on Saakashvili’s state of health, as well as the medical hospital treatment dispensed in the prison hospital; and that the authorities should ensure the ex-President’s safety in prison in general and should provide him with appropriate medical care for the post-hunger strike recovery period.

November 11, 2021

  • Penitentiary releases two videos showing Saakashvili’s transfer to a prison hospital. First footage shows him being dragged into the Gldani #18 prison hospital by several men against his will; another footage shows ex-President sitting in the ambulance car, desperately protesting the transfer and demanding to be returned to Rustavi prison.
  • Georgian Dream authorities face backlash over the release of video recordings and Saakashvili’s treatment. The ruling party defends the moves, arguing that the use of force was a response to his resistance and videos showed Saakashvili’s aggression.
  • Patriarchate scolds bishop for remarks supporting Saakashvili
  • Saakashvili says he will end his hunger strike if he will undergo post-hunger treatment in a civilian clinic. 

November 12, 2021

  • President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he stressed in a phone conversation with PM Garibashvili that the rights of Saakashvili, a Ukrainian citizen, “must be fully guaranteed in accordance with international norms.”
  • EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell, responding to journalists’ questions, calls airing Saakashvili videos by the Penitentiary Service “highly questionable and regrettable.” 
  • Public Defender says Saakashvili is treated worse than other inmates, contrary to officials’ claims about the ex-President’s treatment the same way as other prisoners.

November 13, 2021

  • Member of European Parliament Anna Fotyga says she was refused to visit Saakashvili in a prison hospital. Justice Minister responds, saying only the visitors prescribed by Georgia’s Prison Code are allowed to visit amid Saakashvili’s refusal of “essential medical treatment and the duty of the Penitentiary Service to ensure his health and safety.
  • Ruling Party Chair Irakli Kobakhidze rebukes foreign criticism in a lengthy statement blaming, among others, “foreign lobbyists” for “constant attempts at the politicization of justice.”
  • Georgian CSOs address the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), calling for an ad hoc visit to the Georgian prison system and monitoring the rights situation of Saakashvili.

November 14, 2021

  • 9 UNM lawmakers go on hunger strike demanding Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital.

November 15, 2021

  • Elected UNM local council members in Rustavi and Zugdidi, 11 persons in total, go on hunger strike demanding Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian clinic, media reports.
  • Former Georgian Dream Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili slams authorities over Saakashvili’s treatment and the dissemination of his forced prison hospital transfer video footage.
  • The Special Penitentiary Service again refuses to transfer Saakashvili for his trial hearing at the Tbilisi City Court, citing risks of obstruction by the former president’s supporters, as well as health concerns.
  • MEPs Marina Kaljurand and Sven Mikser issue a joint statement, expressing support for Public Defender Nino Lomjaria amid recent attacks by the Georgian Dream leadership over her stance regarding Saakashvili’s rights.

November 16, 2021

  • Justice Ministry refuses Ukrainian Ombudsperson Lyudmyla Denisova visit to jailed former Georgian President. Justice Minister Rati Bregadze says “we are not obligated” by law to allow the Ukrainian public defender’s visit to the penitentiary hospital, noting “there was no necessity for it.” Minister Bregadze cites protection of Saakashvili’s health as another reason for the refusal.
  • Saakashvili addresses the international community from the prison hospital, “urging my friends all around the world who care about freedom to raise their voices against lawlessness and the emergence of Putin-style practices in Georgia.”
  • Public Defender Nino Lomjaria sets up a group of nine experts to monitor the medical services provided by the state to Saakashvili.
  • GD MPs hit out at Ukrainian Public Defender
  • The Public Defender’s Office calls on the Special Penitentiary Service to transfer Saakashvili to court hearings and urges the court to give the accused the opportunity to partake and protect his rights at trials.

November 17, 2021

  • GD Chair Kobakhidze says MEP Anna Fotyga, critical of the government’s treatment of Saakashvili, is part of a group of “longtime lobbyists of the criminal political force [United National Movement].”
  • Public Defender Nino Lomjaria and the team of medical experts she assembled visit Saakashvili in the prison hospital.
  • Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili says Saakashvili’s dignity must be respected, criticizing the Penitentiary Service for publishing Saakashvili’s videos. But she also warned that transferring him to a multi-profile clinic would be associated with risks.
  • A group of doctors assembled by the Public Defender concludes Saakashvili’s health condition is “critical,” recommending immediately transferring him into the intensive care unit in a functional and well-experienced multi-profile hospital.

November 18, 2021

  • GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze reacts to the conclusion of the Ombudsperson-invited group of doctors about transferring Saakashvili to a multi-profile clinic, calling the report “fake” and its authors politically biased. He also warns of Ombudsperson’s and doctors’ possible liability should the transfer, if it takes place, result in feared consequences, hinting at the alleged plot of Saakashvili’s supporters to storm clinic/kidnap him from the hospital.
  • Public Defender Nino Lomjaria responds to Kobakhidze’s remarks, slamming him over attempts “to attack and intimidate an independent constitutional body and its experts.”
  • Saakashvili temporarily loses consciousness and remains under intensive care at the Gldani prison hospital. Doctor said he had high blood pressure but the dynamics of his blood flow, as well as his oxygen levels and breathing parameters are now normal.
  • U.S. urges appropriate treatment of Saakashvili, allowing court attendance

November 19, 2021

  • Kyiv reiterates demand to treat Saakashvili in multiprofile clinic
  • Several ruling party MPs mull Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital, marking the change of the Georgian Dream’s weeks-long uncompromising stance.
  • Public Defender says Saakashvili’s condition is critical, warning about possible further complications based on a new evaluation by the group of doctors convened by the ombudsperson.
  • Justice Minister Rati Bregadze offers Saakashvili’s transfer to Gori military hospital, saying the military hospital is well-equipped to treat the former President, but the transfer requires Saakashvili’s consent. He warned, however, that if supporters of Saakashvili obstruct the transfer, the ex-President will be taken back to the Gldani prison clinic.
  • Following Justice Minister’s offer to transfer Saakashvili, Droa party leader Elene Khoshtaria ends her 17-day hunger strike. saying the Minister’s decision fulfilled her “one and only request.”
  • Medics slam GD Chair over ‘unprecedented pressure’ on doctors
  • 12 Georgian CSOs express concerns over “frequent verbal assaults” against the Public Defender from ruling party officials.
  • 23 MEPs call EU leaders to sanction Georgian officials over Saakashvili treatment.
  • Four U.S. Senators voice concern on that Saakashvili, is not treated fairly and with dignity, in accordance with Georgian legislation and international standards.
  • Saakashvili accepts the government’s offer to be transferred to the Military Hospital in Gori for his post-hunger-strike recovery, pledging to end his hunger strike once he is placed there.

November 23, 2021

  • Public Defender Nino Lomjaria unveils early on November 23 an updated interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights, dated November 19, in which the Strasbourg-based court instructs the Government of Georgia to follow the advice of doctors group under Public Defender auspices to transfer Saakashvili to multi-profile clinic.

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