TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office has officially charged a former Justice Minister in absentia for abuse of power and being responsible for torturing prisoners.
Zurab Adeishvili, the former Justice Minister in Saakashvili’s government who disappeared after the parliamentary election in October, was charged on Saturday.
The Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of abuse of powers, and of organizing humiliating treatment and physical and verbal abuse of prisoners. He is further accused of falsifying evidence in a criminal case, and organizing provocations.
The Prosecutor’s Office’s account says that this took place in September of 2012. In the beginning of September, a few weeks before the prison abuse scandal broke with videos of prisoner torture being shown on TV, Zurab Adeishvili learned that there existed footage showing torture at Prison No 8 and that the clips might be published on TV in a European country.
September 17, the former justice minister instructed the first deputy chief prosecutor and the chair of the Prison Department within the Prison Ministry to take measures to persuade the public that the footage which was about to be released was staged and was made on the order of the Georgian Dream coalition for payment.
Adeishvili instructed Davit Chakua, head of the Prison Department, to make the employees of Prison No 8 organize humiliation, verbal and physical abuse of pre-selected prisoners and film it, then hand the video to the media. Meanwhile, there would be launched a criminal investigation of people involved in the same torture, in order to mislead the public. The government at the time made sure to publish the video at the right time, and this way harm the image of the Georgian Dream coalition before the election, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The case involves the director of Prison No 8, as well as the head of the security department at the facility, who participated in carrying out Adeishvili’s plan.
September 18, the day before Georgian TV broadcast the torture footage, Prison No8 employees entered cell No 37 at 05:00 am, and singled out some of the prisoners there. Levan Purtskhvanidze, chair of the security department, ordered staff to get them naked, bring them to their knees, beat and humiliate them, while he scolded them.
The same morning, Purtskhvanidze informed the public that a representative of the Georgian Dream coalition had ordered torture of prisoners.
In order to falsify evidence, the director of Prison No 8 placed a t-shirt with a surveillance camera, USD 14 000 and a disk in the safe of Levan Purtskhvanidze, who was later detained.
In the morning of September 19, the Ministry of Internal Affairs published the clip made on Adeishvili’s orders; the first video of prisoner torture to be published. Later in the day, TV9 and a few other television stations broadcast a handful of other clips showing much more serious mistreatment. The scenes in these clips were reminiscent of what came out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004, including physical and sexual abuse of prisoners. These clips were also filmed at Prison No 8.
The result was a massive public outcry, protests and serious damage to the National Movement’s image.