Georgia interior minister quits over prisoner abuse videos

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 4:21pm

Georgia interior minister quits over prisoner abuse videos

By the CNN Wire Staff


Editor's note: Note graphic content.

(CNN) -- Georgia's interior minster resigned Thursday, two days after videos surfaced purportedly showing guards abusing prisoners.

Bacho Akhalaia released a statement on the ministry's website announcing the move.

"I am deeply horrified with the crime that has been revealed in Gldani N8 prison," he said, referring to the facility in Tbilisi, the capital.

Akhalaia said that even though he's no longer in charge of the prison system, some people who were tasked to prevent such acts began their careers under his leadership.

"Because of that, I feel a moral and political obligation that we were not able to prevent this horrible practice (the abuse)."

Georgia television stations, including TV9, broadcast the videos Tuesday night. The faces of those being filmed were obscured. One man cries out while he is being raped with a broom handle. Another video shows an inmate being punched.

The videos led to arrests inside and outside the Eurasian country, a former Soviet republic. It also stoked outrage.

President Mikheil Saakashvili called the abuse "a horrific affront to human rights and human dignity." The U.S. Embassy said it was revolted by the images.

The country's interior ministry on Tuesday blamed certain prison employees for the degrading treatment. It said a prisoner at the facility offered "substantial reimbursement" to employees for their actions and the video recordings. Its statement did not elaborate on the prisoner's motivation.

The interior ministry identified that prisoner as Tamaz Tamazashvili, father-in-law of Irlakli Garibashvili, a member of the opposition Georgian Dream party.

Garibashvili said Tamazashvili's life was in danger and that he was being held "hostage" by the president. Tamazashvili had nothing to do with the taped incidents, Garibashvili said.

Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, Georgia's minister of corrections and legal assistance, tendered her resignation Wednesday.

-- CNN's Nunu Japaridze contributed to this report

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