Saakashvili bashes Russia’s jail critique

Saakashvili bashes Russia’s jail critique

Saakashvili bashes Russia’s jail critique

Georgian President Saakashvili responds angrily over Russian criticism of Georgia’s recent prison abuse at the 67th UN General Assembly in New York. AFP photo

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has lashed out at Russian criticism of a recent prison abuse scandal in Georgia, saying that his government’s handling of the case showed it is more democratic than Russia, where nobody “gives a damn” about such crimes.

Russia said the scandal raised questions about the ability of Saakashvili’s government to protect citizens’ rights. Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, Saakashvili angrily rejected the latest criticism, saying that Moscow did not like his country’s democratic success.

‘Nobody gives a damn in Russia’

“That’s why they want Georgia off the map, because if Georgia survives ... then that’s a bad example for all the others (former Soviet states), including the Russian people, from the point of view of the Russian government,” Saakashvili said. “Even the way, how we reacted, to the prison scandal we had recently, in Russia these things happen almost every day ... and nobody gives a damn there about it,” he added. In the scandal, which broke ahead of Georgia’s parliamentary elections Oct. 1, two television channels supportive of the opposition broadcast video showing the torture and rape of inmates in Tbilisi’s main prison.

The head of the prison, his two deputies and several prison guards were arrested, the prisons and interior ministers resigned and Saakashvili asked police to take over prison guard duties while radical reforms of the jail system were planned.

“The facts were sickening and our responsibility was clear,” Saakashvili said. “Our reaction was swift and we did what democracies do.”

Saakashvili also accused Russia of threatening his country by building up its military in Georgia’s South Ossetia region and planning large military exercises on its border on the eve of the election. Russia recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent nations after the brief war with Georgia in 2008, thwarting Saakashvili’s hopes of bringing them into the fold.