Georgian medics have recommended that jailed opposition leader and ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili be hospitalized over the hunger strike he started three weeks ago, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Georgia's president from 2004 to 2013, Saakashvili was arrested and imprisoned upon his return from exile in Ukraine on Oct.1.
The 53-year-old founder of Georgia's main opposition force, the United National Movement, went on hunger strike immediately to protest what he calls a politically motivated prosecution.
His doctor Nikoloz Kipshidze last week expressed concern over the risk of irreversible damage to Saakashvili's health, saying the former leader's "underlying blood disorder makes his hunger strike particularly dangerous."
On Tuesday night, Saakashvili was examined by doctors who recommended that he be hospitalized, his lawyer Dito Sadzaglishvili told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze told reporters the same day that the government "will follow doctors' recommendations," adding that Saakashvili's consent was needed for such a transfer.
Under Georgian law, medical interventions without the informed consent of a patient are only allowed if the person is unconscious and their life is in danger.
Saakashvili was convicted in absentia on charges of abuse of office and sentenced to six years in prison in 2018.
The flamboyant pro-Western reformer – who still commands a loyal following as the country's foremost opposition leader – has denied wrongdoing.
A group of European Parliament members called on Tuesday for Saakashvili's release pending a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which is examining Saakashvili's appeal against his conviction.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sparked an uproar in Georgia when he recently said that the government had to arrest Saakashvili because he had refused to quit politics.
Last week, tens of thousands of Georgians massed in the streets of the capital Tbilisi demanding Saakashvili's release and more than 90,000 people signed a petition in his support.
The rally attracted the most protesters since Saakashvili's arrest on Oct. 1. His lawyer read a statement by him from the stage as the crowd massed in the city center.
"It's time to save Georgia now, that's why we have to be together... This Carthage of evil, betrayal and oppression will certainly fall," the ex-president wrote, referring to the ancient city destroyed by war.
Many Georgian national flags were seen above the crowd, with some holding flags of the European Union and Ukraine, where Saakashvili lived before returning to his home country.
The prosecution of Saakashvili and many of his allies has prompted concern in the West. His detention deepened a protracted political crisis in Georgia, where opposition parties complained of widespread fraud in last year's parliamentary elections, narrowly won by the ruling Georgian Dream party.