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Rati Bregadze: “Saakashvili takes purees and natural juices. This is food. This is no longer a medical prescription. This is food which the prisoner takes.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Rati Bregadze’s statement is a LIE.

Resume: The statement of the Public Defender of Georgia shows that Mikheil Saakashvili has been taking small amount of juices and mineral purees for medical purposes since 30 October 2021. This does not constitute a breach of a hunger strike which was attested by the clarification of health workers at the penitentiary establishment and medical reports filled out about the patient’s hunger strike. According to the Public Defender of Georgia, the respective documents contain no fact of changing the form of the patient’s hunger strike or of his eating food.

The Minister of Justice makes a reference to taking a certain kind of food in his statement, although he hides the full context. By spreading the information in this manner, the Minister of Justice seeks to discredit his political opponent, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is on a hunger strike, and his act of protest. During the entire interview, the Minister of Justice did not once state that Mr Saakashvili took specific food at the request of medical personnel in the examination room. Furthermore, Rati Bregvadze avoided giving any direct answers to the question of a journalist in regard to the circumstances as to how Mr Saakashvili obtained and took food but again made an emphasis on the fact that he (Mr Saakashvili) was eating.

In addition, a conclusion of the medical council established for monitoring Mikheil Saakashvili’s health was published on the very evening of 8 November 2021. The conclusion is signed by all council members and says: “The hunger strike has been ongoing for 39 days. He refuses to take nutrizone (a food additive) and does not take the prescribed electrolytes and vitamins. His current weight is 104 kilograms. Weight loss as compared to his initial weight constitutes nearly 10%... The patient faces heightened risks of multisystem complications. He needs urgent medical treatment in a multi-profile and high-tech medical facility where it would be possible to undergo relevant cardiovascular, neurological, haematological, endocrinal, nutritional, treating and diagnostic radiological (MRT. KT. Catheterisation laboratory) therapy.” According to the council members, Mr Saakashvili has been on a hunger strike for 39 consecutive days and faces heightened risks of multisystem complications.

Analysis:

On 5 November 2021, the Minister of Justice of Georgia, Rati Bregadze, spoke about Mikheil Saakashvili in his interview with Rustavi 2. As stated by Mr Bregadze: “Mikheil Saakashvili, upon entrance to the prison, when he received his bank card and this happened very rapidly, purchased certain products in two days after being put in prison. Later, as you are aware, he ostensibly refused to take these food products. After some time, he gave consent to take different types of purees and natural juices. In addition, he also continues to take those medications which were prescribed by the doctors.” In response to the journalist’s question as to exactly what type of food Mikheil Saakashvili took, Rati Bregadze stated that he took food which was no longer of a medical purpose.

On 6 November 2021, the Head of the Special Penitentiary Service, Nika Tskhvarashvili, stated they “were discussing whether or not release footage of Mikheil Saakashvili eating food” whilst the Special Penitentiary Service released footage of Mr Saakashvili taking certain food a few hours later.

The State Inspector’s Service responded to the Special Penitentiary Service’s decision to publish photo and video materials. According the statement of the State Inspector’s Service: “The State Inspector’s Service underlines the importance of protecting the privacy of the person being on hunger strike while deprived of his liberty. A person deprived of his or her liberty must have confidence in the institution and the medical personnel where he or she is placed and from whom he or she receives medical assistance. Otherwise, he or she may refrain from receiving medical care and providing important information to medical personnel that would endanger his of her life and health. In addition, the State Inspector’s Service started an examination of the lawfulness of obtaining and disclosing the abovementioned photographs and videos.”

In addition, the Public Defender of Georgia responded to the statement of the Minister of Justice on 6 November 2021. According to the statement: “During the visit to Penitentiary Establishment No. 12 on 6 November 2021, representatives of the Public Defender of Georgia checked the health condition of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, talked to the medical staff, studied the latest information/documents related to his hunger strike and met with the prisoner himself.

The visit made it clear that from 30 October 2021, at the request of the head of the Medical Department of the Special Penitentiary Service and the medical staff of the establishment, Mikheil Saakashvili had been receiving small amounts of juices and mineral purees for medical purposes. These products were supplied by the medical staff themselves who explained that they could not be evaluated as food and taking them in small doses, in a liquid form, was conditioned by the health condition of the patient. The above is confirmed by the medical documents as well which do not indicate that the patient is taking food or that any change has been made in the form of his hunger strike which is necessary to indicate in the case of a prisoner starting to eat. According to the information received, Mikheil Saakashvili has been on a continuous hunger strike since 1 October 1 2021 and has not received any food.”

Of note is that after the statement of the Minister of Justice and the release of the footage showing him taking food, Mikheil Saakashvili released a statement on 7 November 2021 saying that he ceased to take any food additives prescribed by the medical personnel.

The statement of the Public Defender of Georgia shows that Mikheil Saakashvili has been taking small amounts of juices and mineral purees for medical purposes since 30 October 2021. This does not constitute a breach of a hunger strike which is attested by the clarification of health workers at the penitentiary establishment and medical reports filled out about the patient’s hunger strike. According to the Public Defender of Georgia, the respective documents contain no fact of changing the form of the patient’s hunger strike or his eating food. Given these factors, we may say that Rati Bregadze’s statement is a manipulation of facts. In his statement, he only mentions taking certain food whilst hiding the full context. By spreading the information in this manner, the Minister of Justice seeks to discredit his political opponent, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is on a hunger strike, and his act of protest. During the entire interview, the Minister of Justice did not once state that Mr Saakashvili took specific food at the request of medical personnel in the examination room. Furthermore, Rati Bregvadze avoided giving any direct answers to the question of a journalist in regard to the circumstances as to how Mr Saakashvili obtained and took food but again made an emphasis on the fact that he (Mr Saakashvili) was eating.

Together with the factual accuracy of the statement of the Minister of Justice discussed in this article, it is also important to analyse the context in which he made such a statement. In his statement, Rati Bregadze speaks about Mikheil Saakashvili starting to take certain food. This statement in fact confirmed that he had not taken any food, including food additives, prior to 30 October 2021. Of additional note is that Georgian Dream representatives started to make references with increasing frequency vis-à-vis Mikheil Saakashvili’s alleged breaching of his hunger strike precisely from 30 October 2021.

On 30 October 2021, Chairperson of the Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, stated that the government bodies will produce evidence that Mikheil Saakashvili is not on a hunger strike. Mr Kobakhidze also added: “The whole prison is laughing because this man drinks three litres of lemonade in a day and the whole prison is laughing about this. He buys that. Three litres of lemonade in a day is a continuation of the shame represented by Saakashvili.”

On 1 November 2021, Executive Secretary of the Georgian Dream, Mamuka Mdinaradze, stated that Mikheil Saakashvili’s hunger strike is a “fake” hunger strike and urged him to give his consent on publishing his personal data. According to Mr Mdinaradze: “I urged the person to publish his personal data and allow the penitentiary service to release it. Let’s see afterwards whether or not this is accidentally a fake hunger strike, etc. There are certain doubts among the public.”

Mamuka Mdinaradze made a similar statement on 2 November 2021. Whilst speaking with journalists at the parliament, he stated: “There will be a ridiculous situation on the 41st day [of Mikheil Saakashvili’s hunger strike] since we hear from childhood that a person can survive for 40 days. Fortunately, there will not be a problem and his state of health will be good, this is my reasonable expectation. Let the public judge the rest. He may allow publishing his personal data and then, in my opinion, we will be convinced of what we are dealing with, a half or ‘fake’ hunger strike, something that is staged. He has one trump card, though, because the Minister of Justice cannot publicise details without his permission. Therefore, he can use this trump card and he uses it, very badly, I believe. In my opinion, he will find himself in a ridiculous situation on the 41st or the 57th day.”

On 3 November 2021, Minister of Culture, Tea Tsulukiani, also commented on Mikheil Saakashvili’s hunger strike. As she stated, Mr Saakashvili will not have enough audacity to authorise the penitentiary service to publicise his food ration and daily routine. According to Ms Tsulukiani: “It would be good if Saakashvili finds power in himself and tells the truth to that part of the public which is concerned by the state of his wellbeing.”

The statements made by the Minister of Justice as well as the leaders of the Georgian Dream directly indicate that the authorities act in pursuit of their narrow party interests. Their statements, on the one hand, pushes the prisoner; in this case, Mikheil Saakashvili, to adopt harsher forms of protest and, on the other hand, create a dangerous situation which may further undermine trust vis-à-vis the state system and decrease chances of prisoners cooperating with medical personnel or the penitentiary system in the future.

Together with all of the aforementioned, of additional note is that Mikheil Saakashvili was transferred from the N12 Rustavi penitentiary facility to the N18 Gldani medical facility in one day (on 8 November 2021) after his decision to end cooperation with medical personnel. According to the statement of the penitentiary service: “In order to prevent the further deterioration of his health and given the heightened risks, prisoner Saakashvili was transferred from the N12 penitentiary establishment to the N18 medical facility for the accused and convicts.”

In addition, the conclusion of the medical council established for monitoring Mikheil Saakashvili’s health, was published on the very evening of 8 June 2021. The conclusion is signed by all council members and says: “The hunger strike has been ongoing for 39 days. He refuses to take nutrizone (food additive), does not take prescribed electrolytes and vitamins. His current weight is 104 kilograms. Weight loss as compared to initial weight constitutes nearly 10%... The patient faces heightened risks of multisystem complications. He needs urgent medical treatment in a multi-profile and high-tech medical facility where it would be possible to undergo relevant cardiovascular, neurological, haematological, endocrinal, nutritional, treating and diagnostic radiological (MRT. KT. Catheterisation laboratory) therapy.” According to the council members, Mr Saakashvili has been on a hunger strike for 39 consecutive days and faces heightened risks of multisystem complications).

On 9 November 2021, the Public Defender of Georgia released another statement in regard to Mikheil Saakashvili’s transfer to the N18 medical facility. According to the Public Defender’s assessment: “The medical establishment N18 does not meet the recommendations issued by the council and that the placement of Mikheil Saakashvili in the facility clearly violates the obligation of the state to respect human dignity. Accordingly, the Public Defender calls on the Minister of Justice/Penitentiary Service to immediately transfer the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to an alternative medical facility.”

As stated by the representative of the Public Defender, Mikheil Ghonghadze, Mikheil Saakashvili refuses to be medically treated at the Gldani N18 medical facility and continues his hunger strike. According to the statement of the Public Defender, Nino Lomjaria, who visited Mikheil Saakashvili in Gldani prison, Mr Saakashvili had information that he was going to be transferred to a civilian clinic. Therefore, he gave his consent to this decision. As stated by Ms Lomjaria: “The N12 Rustavi penitentiary does not have any official document where prisoner Saakashvili is informed that he was going to be transferred to the N18 medical facility. However, he [Saakashvili] says that he was verbally informed that was to be taken to a civilian clinic. After he [Saakashvili] was brought to the Gldani prison, he said he was unwilling to disembark the emergency vehicle. He also says that he was forcibly taken into the N18 medical facility.”

Finally, in view of the statements of the Minister of Justice and the Georgian Dream’s leaders reviewed in this article, as well as situation around Mikheil Saakashvili and the recent developments, we may say that Rati Bregadze’s statement that Mikheil Saakashvili breached his hunger strike and took food is a LIE.


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28%
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18%
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Manipulation
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