Tbilisi – Georgia’s jailed ex-president and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on hunger strike for weeks, said on Monday he feared for his life after prison guards assaulted him.
The guards “abused me verbally, punched me on the neck, dragged me on the ground by my hair”, Saakashvili said in a letter released through his lawyer, adding that his controversial transfer on Monday to a prison hospital was “aimed at killing” him.
Saakashvili, who served as president between 2004 and 2013, was arrested on October 1 on his return from exile in Ukraine.
He has refused food for 39 days to protest against his imprisonment, which he says is politically motivated.
Earlier, Saakashvili was moved to a prison hospital that rights officials say fails to ensure his proper treatment.
On Monday evening, about 40 000 people rallied in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, demanding his release.
Doctors have said Saakashvili faces an imminent risk of death as he has an underlying blood disorder that makes his hunger strike particularly dangerous.
Saakashvili’s lawyers have expressed concerns that his “security will not be guaranteed in the prison hospital where convicted criminals are employed as paramedics”.
The independent Pirveli TV channel reported that inmates in the prison hospital staged a noisy protest against Saakashvili, shouting profanities at the man who led a relentless campaign against organised crime during his tenure as president.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sparked an uproar recently by saying that Saakashvili “has the right to commit suicide” and that the government had been forced to arrest him because he refused to quit politics.
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