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Who controls the prisons?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 26
Minister of the Penitentiary and Legal Corrections, Sozar Subari, responded to the accusations of the United National Movement concerning the running of prisons by criminal bosses. Subari stressed that these criminal bosses and watchers in prisons were “the inheritance of the former government.” The ministry representatives stated that there were many “mistakes” in the statement by the UNM.

The United National Movement expressed concerns regarding the “growing influence” of criminal bosses in the prison system several days ago. UNM MP Akaki Minashvili held a briefing concerning the issue. He called the situation a “spider web” that was formed after the October parliamentary elections. For visual effect, Minashvili presented a graphic of the scheme of how the so-called “watches” of prison are in contact with the main criminal boss of the network, Tariel Potskhveria, nicknamed Tarasa, inside Ksani prison.

“You remember that Tarasa was the main creator and main ideologists of the anti-government plot in 2006. Under the agreement with the officials of the ministry, Tarasa summons various criminal bosses at the prison hospital, where Tarasa gives instruction and recommendations to the so-called “watches” about how they must control situation in prisons,” Minashvili claimed, adding that the current situation might cause two misfortunes: violence inside the penitentiary institutions and attempts of controlling the situation outside by criminal authorities.

Subari says the allegations about the “watches” among the convicts, who control the situation in prisons and make decisions about where and when a convict will be taken, are groundless and absurd.

“When Minashvili speaks about the general regime prisons, as a lawmaker, he should know that the general regime prisons were closed four years ago,” Subari said. He also added that the heritage of 700 watches, which the new government faced after taking office, was very difficult to undermine.

“Now these people are held in separate cells with no contact with other inmates,” Subari said, stressing that those inmates can no longer control the prisons.

Deputy Head of the minister of penitentiary Archil Talakvadze is ready to speak on the recent situation in prisons through television with Minashvili.

“I am ready to present all the arguments of how the new government destroyed the UNM-created system in the prisons,” Talakvadze said, adding that the scheme presented by Minashvili was drafted three years ago and did not reflect the current situation at all. Talakvadze said that Minahsvili spoke about the punishment rooms in Ksani prison that do not exist.

Public defender Ucha Nanuashvili stated that the statement and scheme aired by the UNM lacked argumentation. He stressed that the “watchers institution existed and exists at the penitentiary institutions and this is the problem that should be fought against.”

“Shifting the blame on Subari in this regard is absurd. The scheme presented by the UNM was totally hypothetic without any real evidence,” Nanuashvili said.

Former Public Defender and current representative of the civil sector, Giorgi Tughushi, stressed that it would be more profitable if both sides think about settling the problem together rather than accusing each other.