Zelensky Calls For Tbilisi To Hand Over Ex-Georgian President

Mike Godwin
Mike Godwinhttp://mikereports.org
Mike Godwin is a freelance journalist who focuses on defense and security matters in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, as well as NATO, Russia, and the Black Sea. He is a combat veteran of the United States Army and currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia where he operates his journalism, analysis, and OSINT brand, MikeReports.

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Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky has called on the Georgian authorities to release former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili into his care while sharing a new image of the ex-leader in his decrepit state during a recent court appearance.

“We have repeatedly called on the official Tbilisi to stop this abuse and agree on Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine,” he posted. “Our partners, in coordination with Ukraine, have also offered various rescue options. ”

Zelensky has also given the Georgian Ambassador 48 hours to leave his country to “hold consultations in Tbilisi.” “No government in Europe has the right to execute people, life is a European basic value,” he concluded.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the nations’s 3rd President and who led the country during the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, has been incarcerated since his detention by the authorities in early October 2021 after reportedly arriving covertly in the Black Sea port city of Batumi.

Prior to his arrival, he had been living in Ukraine, even serving as the Governor of the Odessa Oblast. He lost his citizenship in Ukraine under then-President Petro Poroshenko while living in the United States, becoming a stateless person in 2017.

Upon attempting to return to Ukraine in 2018, he was arrested and deported, going to live in the Netherlands until his second return in 2019 after Zelensky restored his citizenship.

His controversial arrest and imprisonment was ordered by the Georgia government after he was found guilty and sentenced in absentia in 2018 to 6 years imprisonment for ordering persecution of political rivals, embezzling state funds, and corruption as well as ordering a police raid on an pro-opposition news channel’s headquarters.

At the time of his arrest, the prosecutor’s office made a statement that he had been found “guilty in Sandro Girgvliani’s [murder] case and the case of battery of Valeri Gelashvili and sentenced him to imprisonment for a term of six years.”

Saakashvili greets supporters in Ukraine in May 2019. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Despite his arrest pursuant to his previous convictions, many have called the actions of Tbilisi politically motivated, including both domestic and foreign politicians. The European Parliament issued a resolution in November last year where it reiterated “its call on the Georgian authorities to release former President Mikheil Saakashvili and allow him to receive proper medical treatment abroad on humanitarian grounds and as a means of reducing political polarization”.

During his incarceration, he began to suffer significant health problems and was eventually remanded to a medical clinic. Saakashvili has also repeatedly conducted hunger strikes as a method of pleading for better treatment.

Georgian opposition parties to the ruling party, named ‘Georgian Dream’, have accused the leadership of ordering him beaten, abused, and even poisoned after traces of heavy metals were found in his blood samples.

US-based toxicologist David Smith said in a report disseminated by Saakashvili’s legal defense team that “To a reasonable degree of medical certainty the toxic agents, including mercury and arsenic, were introduced after Saakashvili was jailed.”

Smith added that there was “increased risk of mortality is imminent” without adequate treatment, “which appears to have been denied or unavailable” in Georgia. However, Georgian authorities have adamantly stated that the former President has full access to state medical care but is refusing or not following proper procedure in order to inflict “self harm.”

Zelensky has repeatedly led the call for better treatment, more medical access, and the release of Saakashvili, causing more division between Georgian and Ukrainian governments. Saakashvili has reportedly lost 52 kg (115 lbs.) since his incarceration and according to family and his lawyers, has degraded mental condition where he “lost his mind more than once.”