Georgian president says Saakashvili is special prisoner but won't be pardoned

MOSCOW, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Jailed former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is on hunger strike, cannot be pardoned and his health condition should not cause political turmoil, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said on Wednesday, Interfax news agency reported.

Saakashvili, 53, has been on hunger strike for 34 days in prison, where he faces a six-year sentence after being convicted in absentia in 2018 of abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, charges he rejects as politically motivated. read more

Having lived abroad for years, the pro-Western politician was arrested on Oct. 1 after returning to Georgia on the eve of local elections on what he described as a mission to rally the opposition and save the country.

Zourabichvili said Saakashvili had returned in order to destabilise Georgian politics.

"My position on pardoning the former president is firm and constant: no and never," Interfax quoted her as saying.

But she said that given the strong public interest in his case, he must be recognised as a special prisoner and authorities should take all possible measures "so the deterioration of his health is not used for political speculation or destabilisation".

Saakashvili was given a blood transfusion last week and his doctor said then that he was in a stable condition. read more

Saakashvili led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ousted veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Saakashvili served as president from 2004 to 2013 before leaving the country and building a new political career in Ukraine.

Thousands of his supporters have rallied in the capital Tbilisi and other cities in the past weeks, demanding his release. read more

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Gareth Jones

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