Georgians protest outside ex-president Saakashvili’s prison

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Georgian opposition supporters of former president Mikheil Saakashvili hold national flags and posters with his portraits during a rally in front of the prison where the former president is being held, in Rustavi, about 20 km from the capital Tbilisi, Georgia, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Saakashvili was detained in Tbilisi on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2021. Doctors say former President Mikheil Saakashvili is very weak as he nears 40 days on hunger strike. He started the hunger strike after being arrested at the beginning of October when he returned to Georgia. Saakashvili, who left Georgia in 2014 and became a Ukrainian citizen, faces several charges in Georgia and earlier was sentenced in absentia to up to six years in prison. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

RUSTAVI, Georgia (AP) — Hundreds of protesters are rallying outside a prison in Georgia to demand that the country’s incarcerated former President Mikheil Saakashvili be transferred to a private clinic because he is weakening while on a hunger strike.

Saakashvili declared the hunger strike hours after being placed in the prison in Rustavi, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the capital Tbilisi, on Oct. 1. He was arrested that day after returning to Georgia from his home in Ukraine, aiming to bolster opposition forces ahead of nationwide municipal elections.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013 following the end of his presidency due to term limits. He later was stripped of his citizenship and sentenced in absentia to six years in prison on abuse-of-power convictions.

Supporters contend that Saakashvili’s health has seriously deteriorated while in prison, but Georgian authorities say his vital signs are normal. Justice Minister Rati Begradze said Friday that Saakashvili has been consuming cereal and fruit juices.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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