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    Posted September 21, 2012 by
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    Georgian citizens against prison abuse


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     iReporter fiqria captured these images in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, of protesters marching to demand action on Thursday following the broadcast of shocking videos purportedly depicting the abuse of prisoners in a Georgian prison. The march started at one of the city's universities before ending up in front of the Ministry of Justice. "The protesters were angry and noisy, but not aggressive," she said. "People in Georgia are shocked to see these torture videos and agree with the protesters." Georgia's minister of corrections and legal assistance has resigned over the incident.
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    In recent days a sequence of reports and videos of horrific abuses in Georgian prisons has come to light, causing a large protest outbreak on the streets. Thousands of students and ordinary citizens, supported by civil society and opposition parties’ activists have held numerous protest rallies around the Capital city of Tbilisi, as well as all other major cities and towns, demanding punishment of officials responsible for these brutal acts of torture, including the Ministers of Penitentiary System and Internal Affairs.
    Allegedly, the videos have leaked from one or more of the prison officers, participating in the beatings and sexual abuse. One of them has been arrested by the MIA at the Armenian border, as have been ten other prison officers. Head of Penitentiary Department has resigned on 18th of September, just after the disclosure of these videos by TV9 and Maestro TV, followed by resignation of Minister of Penitentiary System Khatuna Khalmakhelidze on the second day and Minister of Internal Affairs and the initiator of penitentiary reform, Bacho Akhalaia a day after.
    Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has suspended the country's entire prison staff, replacing them with recently reformed police forces and putting Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili personally in charge of the investigation. On 20th of September the President has appointed current Ombudsmen and a long-time critic of the penitentiary system, George Tugushi a Minister of Penitentiary System and First Deputy Minister Eka Zguladze to replace Bacho Akhalaia.The ruling party has said the video was staged by the opposition to discredit the government ahead of key elections. For majority though, this is graphic proof that the authorities' advocated “zero tolerance” policy towards crime has become unaccountable.
    Relatives of inmates and representatives of civil society continue protest rallies outside the prisons, demanding a right to meet their prisoners. A demonstration outside of the Prison #8 in the Tbilisi district of Gldani, renowned for its tough rules and a high rate of death cases among prisoners, almost ended up in the protestors braking through the prison break. The tension continues, as the country is preparing for parliamentary elections on 1 October, seen as the biggest test facing the country's democracy in the last decade.
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