The protests arose after graphic videos were published showing guards kicking and abusing prisoners. There is an election on October 1 and this scandal could hurt the chances of re-election for the pro-Western Saakashvili government.
On Friday (Sept.21) thousands rallied to demand that top officials who were fired be charged and punished as well after a prison abuse scandal. President Saakashvili immediately tried to control the damage by firing his interior minister as well as the minister in charge of penitentiaries. He also moved some prison personnel to different prisons. However rallies went on for a third day. No doubt the opposition sees a golden opportunity to attack the government.
The main opposition party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili is cautioning his own supporters about taking the battle to the streets. The multibillionaire politician fears a government crackdown on protests could derail the electoral process and prevent the opposition from gaining a victory. If the opposition wins then Ivanishvili would become prime minister next year. Under recent reforms power has been shifted from the president to the parliament and prime minister.
The Saakashvili government claims that the opposition deliberately waited until the final weeks of the election campaign to release the videos. One of the TV channels that showed the videos is owned by Ivanishvili. Both sides say they are committed to a peaceful election process going ahead. A leading member of Invishvili's Georgian Dream coalition said: "Elections must be held in a quiet environment. Let people express their opinion at the polls."
Many students involved in the protests have stopped protesting at least until after the vote. However many hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the Gidani prison in the capital Tbilsi. This is the prison where the abuses were filmed.
The European Union has urged the Gerogian government to punish those involved in the abuse. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy head, said that she was "appalled by the shocking footage of abuses committed against inmates in Gldani prison." She continued:"It is of vital importance that these and other incidents are thoroughly and transparently investigated and that those responsible are held to account."
A spokesperson for the UN human rights office in Geneva, Rupert Colville, urged the Georgian authorities to quickly and impartially investigate all the cases of abuse and ensure that Georgian prisons and detention centers were managed in line with international standards and human rights. In just over a week Georgians will find out whether this abuse has managed to help put the Georgian opposition in power.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com