Minister quits in Georgia over prison scandal

Minister quits in Georgia over prison scandal

TBILISI, Georgia - Agence France-Presse
Minister quits in Georgia over prison scandal

Georgian women cry as they hold the picture of a relative at a rally against torture. AFP photo

Georgia’s prisons minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze resigned yesterday over videos showing the alleged beating and rape of convicts that caused outrage ahead of bitterly-contested elections in the ex-Soviet state.

Some of the graphic video footage, aired late Sept. 18 by opposition television station TV9, showed a weeping half-naked male prisoner at a jail in Tbilisi begging for mercy before apparently being raped with a stick. Another video released by the interior ministry showed prison guards brutally kicking an inmate. “What happened in penitentiary number 8 is horrific and I have submitted my resignation to the prime minister,” Kalmakhelidze said.

15 people arrested

Several hundred people staged an angry protest and blocked one of the capital’s main streets, some carrying hand-drawn pictures of prisoners being beaten and others holding photographs of relatives allegedly abused in jails. A Georgian government statement said that 15 alleged perpetrators had already been arrested and claimed that the videos were staged by paid provocateurs paid to discredit the authorities ahead of the polls.

The videos have caused a scandal ahead of the Oct. 1 polls which will see the ruling party of President Mikheil Saakashvili facing a major challenge from an opposition bloc led by billionaire tycoon Bidzinia Ivanishvili who has vowed to oust the government.