Angry protesters lined the streets of Tbilisi, appalled by videos apparently showing torture in the country’s jails. The footage, which was aired on an opposition television channel, shows graphic physical and sexual violence by prison guards.
Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvali has vowed to punish those responsible and send in police to man the prisons, less than a fortnight ahead of bitterly contested parliamentary elections.
The NGO “Transparency International Georgia” said that the government is being forced to address the issue for the first time. Executive Director Eka Gigauri said, “For so many years different organisations that were not politically motivated, they were raising those issues all the time. And there was no proper response from the side of the government. But now they have this footage and this might be also disseminated from the opposition side or from people affiliated with the opposition.”
Saakashvili’s government maintains that the guards in the videos were paid to stage abuse for political reasons: “Those who were responsible for the penitentiary system and failed to prevent such atrocities from happening will be fired. And those who committed the crimes, I promise you, will spend long years in jail,” he said.
Protestors are calling for an independent enquiry into what happened, and for the resignation of more senior ministers.