Georgia's rape video scandal grows into mass protests, threatening ruling party
24.09.12 17:21 By Olga Kuzmenkova (Tbilisi), ediyed by Karina Ayvazova
Georgians are protesting against violence in prisons Photo: Reuters
Rallies and protests are continuing in the Caucasian Republic of Georgia after videos documenting abuse of prisoners were shown on television last week.
Many thingk that the authorities must have known about the horrors that are visited on Georgian prisoners. They also think that none of the authorities bothered until the abuse and rape videos were aired on opposition TV channels first, then on the state-run TV channels.
The videos showed how prison workers abused prisoners: beat, kicked and raped them with different objects.
Georgian society has exploded. Protests have led to the resignation of two ministers, including the tough interior minister Bacho Akhalaya and the Ministry of Penal Corrections Khatuna Kalmakhelidze.
Everyday at 5pm, Tbilisi residents, mostly students, gather near the cities Philharmonic Hall. The meeting point is not random – this was where Georgia's president, Mikhail Saakashvili came to watch a musical performance the day after the videos were aired.
The resignation of the two ministers was not enough to calm the infuriated crowd. People are demanding the dissolution of Parliament and even the arrest of the ex-Interior minister Bacho Akhalaya.
The ruling "United National Movement"party, led by Mikhail Saakashvili, is in a difficult position now as a parliamentary election is due on October 1 in Georgia. The party says that what happened in the Gldanskaya prison was "an error of the system" whichm in reality, is developing towards reforms and democracy and that the top officials were not aware of what was going on in the prison.
Georgian political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze says there are mismatches in the logical explanations of Saakashvili officials. "The authorities say that this all happened by accident. But they did not react when the human rights ombudsman reported about violence in prisons. This means that they at least covered it up. They say they didn't know. If such things happen under their noses this already is their mistake," the expert says.
On Sunday Saakashvili voiced a new defense line saying that while Georgians were protesting against violence in prisons, Russian troops had already activated their positions on the border with Abkhazia. The president probably hinted that Russia might have been involved in the video scandal to distract Georgians or that if his party is not elected during the forthcoming election, Georgia might be thrown back to where it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The thieves are yelling that they will come back," Saakashvili said.
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