Inmates in Rustavi prison demand director’s resignation
By Ana Robakidze
Friday, November 215 inmates incarcerated at Penitentiary Institution No.16 in Rustavi have gone on hunger strike, while their family members have gathered outside the prison. They fear that strikers may be physically or mentally abused by the prison authorities. The hunger strikers' main request is to dismiss the director of the prison and 20 guards who have been accused of abusing and torturing inmates.
A defense lawyer who visited his client in Rustavi prison informed journalists that the hunger strikers have not been abused but added that they have had problems with receiving medical aid as transportation to the prison hospital has become a bit difficult.
Dimitri Lortkipanidze one of the candidates for the post of Public Defender, visited Rustavi prison and met with protesters who had gathered outside. Lortkipanidze asked them to stay calm in order to avoid increasing tensions. He also informed journalists and inmates’ family members that the rumors about inmates being physically abused are not true.
Representatives from the Public Defender’s Office visited Penitentiary Institution No.16 on October 31th and talked to inmates. The strikers presented a collective statement with 444 signatures on it. The statement says that Levan Aburjania, the new director appointed on October 29th, is still using punitive disciplinary methods to control inmates. According to the prisoners' statement Aburjania has implemented new restrictions on inmates and closed the church which was functioning in the prison. Inmates say they are frequently threatened with physical abuse or other types of punishment.
The inmates made the same claims when they met with representatives of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and their partner organizations, who also visited Rustavi prison. The GYLA statement published on their official web-page states that inmates complain of multiple incidents of mental abuse from Aburjania as well as that the hunger strikers are sure Aburjania committed criminal offences when he was a police officer.
The written statement was also forwarded to GYLA representatives and it lists all the queries inmates have at the moment.
The Public Defender’s National Preventive Mechanism has called upon the new Prison Minister Sozar Subari to study the case with all the related facts inmates have provided and to take appropriate legal actions to solve the problem.
Subari has already met with the strikers and their family members. He informed media sources that the complaints inmates have at the moment will be addressed accordingly. In case Levan Aburjania has committed any crime, appropriate legal actions will be taken against him.