Georgia's interior minister resigns over prison rape video


People shout on September 19, 2012 during a protest against torture in prisons, blocking one of the main streets in Tbilisi. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deployed on September 19 police in jails to replace prison officers after videos showing the alleged rape and beatings of convicts sparked protests ahead of bitterly-contested elections.


Vano Shlamov

Georgia's interior minister Bacho Akhalaia handed in his resignation Thursday over a prisoner abuse scandal that has shocked the country. 

Akhalaia relased a statement on the ministry's website announcing that he was leaving his post after footage of inmates being raped and tortured aired on local TV stations, according to CNN. 

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

Akhalaia said that even though he no longer oversees the prison system, some people who were supposed 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)," Akhalaia said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

The videos were released on Georgian TV on Tuesday and showed a man crying out while being raped with a broom handle and another man being punched. 

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has already appointed a new prisons minister to try and calm protests that have cropped up across cities including Tbilisi, Batumi, Poti and Gori, reports Reuters.

Saakashvili faces a general election on October 1. 

Human rights activists denounced the abuse, which some members of the government have speculated is a ploy by the opposition to put the ruling government in hot water ahead of the elections, BBC reported.

“The abuse captured in this footage is profoundly disturbing,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to ensure full accountability—including criminal accountability—for this abuse and take measures to prevent it from ever happening again.”