The messenger logo

Are outside forces responsible for unrest in Georgian prisons?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 6
The situation concerning Georgia's penitentiary institutions still remains strained. After the unrest that transpired at the Rustavi N16 and Ortachala N1 penitentiaries, the situation is growing worse at Ksani's N15 prison. A number of incidents have already taken place between the prison guards and the inmates’ relatives. According to the Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Sozar Subari, the riot has been instigated by representatives of the previous government from outside the prisons.

The relatives of the inmates assembled outside Ksani prison late on November 5. They were informed that several inmates had sewed their lips shut as an act of protest. The prisoners' relatives underscored the fact that a friend of the former Defense Minister, Bacho Akhalaia, was appointed as the new director of the prison and some other employees of the former administration were also overseeing the inmates.

Both the inmates and their relatives have demanded the removal of the new prison director and the former staff members of the prison. Family members also sent a letter asking Subari to schedule a meeting with them.

“We demand the removal of the prison director, Nukri Khukhua and [we demand] that they allow journalists with cameras into prison to record what is going on here. Several inmates have identified Khukhua, they are witness to how violently Khukhua was acting against the inmates… 2,000 inmates are on hunger strike and the number will be increased unless our demands are fulfilled,” one of the inmates stated and appealed to the family members not to leave the prison area.

The relatives of the inmates have also tried to forcibly enter the prison. This action resulted in a confrontation between the family members and the prison guards. During the melee, one of the prison guards was injured. He received bruises and a concussion.

Subari made a special statement concerning the ongoing issues and emphasized that the ministry will become stricter regarding the inmates’ and their relatives’ actions. He has also underscored that the situation concerning prisons is being exacerbated from others outside the prison walls.

“We were refraining from carrying out strict measures. However, from today, the situation will be changed and all those– whether it's an inmate, an inmate’s relative, or an administration employee– all will be punished for any violations. The situation was absolutely calm prior to this and has been artificially strained from the outside,” Subari said.

Maia Khasia, head of the Penitentiary Department, has stated that people cannot be dismissed just because they are disliked by someone.

According to her, all information will be studied, but officials will not be dismissed based on the inmates’ wishes and indications.

"In the morning, there were people outside the prison and they were not letting food vehicles into the prison building. There are 3,400 convicts and someone's health condition might be poor. It will be good if the inmates’ relatives take this fact into consideration,” Khasia stated.

Later on November 4, Mtskheta single-mandate MP, Dimitri Khundadze, entered the prison together with Archbishop Iakob. They said after leaving the territory of the prison that the situation was calm inside the facility and the prisoners were left in a very secure environment. However, the situation worsened the following day.

The author of the prison torture footage spread during the pre-election period, Vladimer Bedukadze, doesn’t rule out mass riots and disorder in prisons in the near future. According to him, the riots will be organized by former Defense Minister, Bacho Akhalaia, with the assistance of inmates.

“In spring of this year, when I planned to publicize the prison torture footage, employee of N8 Gldani prison and a friend of mine, Boris Parulava, took a photo of the 300-member list of so- called agents, convicts and secret allies of the prison, proving that all these people were forced to cooperate with the prison administration,” Bedukadze stated through his Facebook page.

Minority representative, Nugzar Tsiklauri, told The Messenger that the current government is trying to recover its own problems by shifting the guilt onto the previous leadership and on those people which have no connection with the current difficulties in the prisons.

“We have seen that the current government of the country has serious problems in various fields and the only way to hide their disability is to accuse others. We have already stated that we are ready to assist the majority in solving the problems,” Tsiklauri stated, adding that the government is using boring, Soviet-style methods in this regard.

“Of course, each government might have problems and the ruling force should manage and be prepared to regulate and solve them. Each government is responsible for this,” Tsiklauri said.