A former Georgian jailer who fled to Belgium and leaked to the video evidence of prison rape and torture to state TV says the atrocities were aimed against the enemies of the president. The video triggered mass protests in the country.
The fugitive guard claimed that torture victims were chosen by the administration of the Gldan Prison for political reasons.
“Those who have been tortured, including criminal bosses, were mostly the ideological enemies of (President) Saakashvili,” Vladimir Bedukadze stated in a Skype interview with one of Georgia’s opposition TV channels.
Thousands have spent three days on the streets in several cities after national TV channels broadcast video evidence of torture and rape in the Tbilisi prison.
He also added that all the most valuable video footage is now stored in a safe-deposit box belonging to Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaya.
"The videos include prisoners’ being murdered and perverse rape, torture of mentally sick inmates, who should not be kept in jail at all,” Bedukadze said.
Akhalaya has resigned in the wake of the protests, alongside a junior minister.
Bedukadze also accused Akhalaya and senior official Megis Kardava of ordering the brutal murder of former Defense Ministry Colonel Sergo Tetradze, who reportedly died in custody.
He says the colonel was raped and it was filmed, with the video ordered by the Minister of Interior. The authorities accused the colonel of spying.
He apologized before Tetradze’s family, promising that after power is changed in the country, a lot more details of the colonel’s death will emerge. Bedukadze added he is ready to testify in court.
President Mikhail Saakashvili condemned the outrageous acts and vowed to completely reorganize the penitentiary system in the country. Until then, the president put police in charge of the prisons.
An investigation was initiated and 15 guards suspected of torture were detained.
The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has condemned a video depicting inmates in a Georgian prison being tortured. Jean Claude Mignon said he was “shocked” by the footage.
"These unbearable brutalities took place in the government – a member of the Council of Europe. Georgia’s president Mikhail Saakashvili said he would punish those behind the cruelty. I hope that at all levels those responsible for these awful actions will be found and punished in accordance with the law,” he said.
Tsotne Bakuria, former member of Georgia’s parliament, says President Saakashvili has been “fooling the rest of the world for a long time” and the video is just “new visual information of what has really been going on in the country for a long time.”
“The most militarized Ministry of Interior of Georgia, Ministry of Justice of Georgia, was the most oppressive tools of Saakashvili’s regime,” he told RT.
According to disturbing statistics, Bakuria says, Georgia's prison population is one of the highest in the world, and highest in Europe, per capita.
“[The] policy imposed by Mr. Saakashvili’s regime calls [for] zero tolerance towards minors, towards those who raised their voice against Saakashvili’s government. There are so many cases, almost 99 per cent of the prisoners, to be precise 98.7 per cent, according to Human Rights Watch, the prisoners pled [sic] guilty,” Bakuria says.
At the same time, Georgian Prosecutor General Murtaz Zodelava insists that the videos of torture in prison were passed to TV channels by members of the opposition.
Talking on a special media briefing dedicated to the scandalous case, Zodelava specified that it was Tamaz Tamazishvili, a representative of the Georgian Dream opposition coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the opponent and main political rival for the upcoming presidential election of the ruling president.
The Ministry of Interior intimated that Tamazishvili proposed that employees of the detention facility “stage and make video records of inhumane treatment of the suspects in exchange for significant compensation.”
Ivanishvili already called the whole case a provocation against him, just two weeks ahead of the presidential election.