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Incident at Rustavi N16 prison

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, November 1
Unrest took place concerning Rustavi # 16 prison on October 30. The problem is still not completely solved however, but the new head of the penitentiary system claims that he is controlling the situation.

Parents of the inmates were gathered outside the prison and were trying to clear out what was going on inside. Initially, they were demanding a meeting with the new director of the prison; later they demanded his removal.

According to the information delivered by the people gathered outside, the inmates are under pressure by the new staff of the prison. Several inmates are in punishment cells and 5 inmates are on hunger strike with the demand to take them out of the cell.

The parents stated that the new administration of the prison told the inmates that they would be in better conditions than they were during the former government’s ruling period. It has also been stated that the new administration did not let prisoners go to the church and stopped giving medicines to them. They also claim that the new director of the prison is a former policeman, who tortured prisoners and who will bring the former staff of the prison back. The inmates who met with the journalists presented the list of those former staff members who had been returned back. A journalist from IPN spoke with one of the staff employees who was on the list however, and he stated that he is a new one and has worked at the prison for one month only.

“My son phoned me and told that he was moved to the punishment cell. He has also said that after the coming of the new administration the inmates have been put under intensive pressure and threat,” the mother of one of the inmates, Mzia Topuria said.

The parents and relatives of the inmates blocked the road and demanded a meeting with the minister and the coalition’s majoritarian MP, Eka Beselia (she was defending prisoners rights) as well.

The new Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, Sozar Subari, has confirmed the incidents in the Rustavi prison and reported that there was a row between the relatives of inmates and the prison administration late on October 30.

The minister called on everybody to maintain peace and stability and give the ministry an opportunity to uproot similar incidents and create a normal working situation there.

“There was a small straining at Rustavi prison, however, we arrived there and discharged the situation. I call on everyone to avoid imposing provocations from outside,” Subari said

The minister also emphasized that there was some attempts by the inmates to control the situation inside the prison. Subari has voiced that such attempt was coming from so called criminal bosses.

“We will not let criminals control the prisons. Everyone’s rights will be protected however; all inmates should obey the prison administrations. We will not permit a criminal ruling method in prisons,” Subari said.

He also underscored that the parents were given the wrong information and the situation was artificially complicated. Subari emphasized that the reasons for the unrest is completely known for him and that in the near future he will inform the public concerning them.

“We will ensure the protection of inmates' rights; however, this does not mean that no one will be punished for misbehaving or for abusing the staff members,” Subari suggested.

All the accusations have been denied by the prison director, Levan Aburjania. According to him, he did not threaten the inmates and no former staff has returned. He also denied the information on the closure of the prison church and the withholding of medicines to the sick inmates.

“I have just been appointed and no new employees were appointed by me. Moreover, I do not even know the prison administration properly. One thing is obvious, 80% of former staff do not work here any more,” Aburjania stated, adding that the unrest was caused by the inmates attempt to restore criminal ruling method in prison.

The representatives of the prison monitoring group stated that there was a calm situation at the prison late on October 31. However, according to them all the inmates still demand removal of Aburjania and appointing his predecessor, Kakha Gigolashvili (the one appointed by Giorgi Tughushi in September, 2012).