Protests in Georgia against brutality in prisons have strengthened. In central Tbilisi students -some carrying brooms as a symbol of torture called for the arrest of government ministers responsible.
President Mikhail Saakashvili has already fired two ministers and reshuffled prison staff. The moves have not quelled the growing disquiet.
In western Georgia in Zugdidi the protests were political ahead of the country’s October 1 parliamentary elections.
Opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili told his supporters voters face a stark choice between, “good and evil” in the wake of the prison scandal which is threatening to unseat the pro western government.
A victory for Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream Party would install him as the country’s new prime minister. The billionaire businessman owns a television channel which aired a video showing the prison abuses.
Guards allegedly beat and humiliated inmates in Tbilisi’s Gldani prison. The head of the prison and his two deputies were arrested. The government says it was staged recorded by guards bribed by, “ politically motivated persons”.
Before the scandal broke and protesters took to the streets the pollsters had the government with a 20 percentage points lead over the opposition. Analysts say that gap has now narrowed.