Georgia: Hunger-striking Saakashvili passes out in prison

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MOSCOW (AP) — Georgia's imprisoned former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike for seven weeks, fell and lost consciousness Thursday, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Beka Basilaia said he had been visiting Saakashvili in prison when he collapsed. Basilaia said he was taken from the visiting room on a stretcher and that his condition is stable.

However, a medical panel formed by the public defender’s office said Thursday that Saakashvili’s health is deteriorating and that he should be transferred from the prison hospital to a civilian clinic where he can be adequately treated. The panel said Saakashvili is suffering kidney and neurological problems.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013 for Ukraine and was later convicted in absentia of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison. He was arrested Oct. 1 after returning to Georgia in the run-up to national municipal elections, aiming to support opposition forces.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said U.S. officials are closely following the treatment of Saakashvili.

“We commend the oversight work of the Georgian Public Defender in establishing an independent medical team to evaluate Mr. Saakashvili’s health and to review the state of medical facilities at the prison hospital,” said Price in a statement. “We urge the Government of Georgia to treat Mr. Saakashvili fairly and with dignity, as well as to heed the Public Defender’s recommendations about appropriate treatment.”

The Associated Press

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