TBILISI, DFWatch–1 032 prisoners are now on hunger strike in several prisons in Georgia, according to the Prison Ministry.
This is the most recent information as of 19:00 on December 19, and the majority – 946 prisoners – are on hunger strike at Geguti No 14 prison in western Georgia. They demand to create a commission to determine miscarriages of justice as well as getting their individual cases reviewed.
52 women from No 5 facility in Rustavi on Thursday refused to eat bread also as a sign of protest.
Prison Minister Sozar Subari said on Thursday that the ministry cannot do more than constantly monitoring the health of the prisoners who are on hunger strike. He said all the prisoners’ demands are either legislative or political.
He said it is a political matter when each of them require to have their cases reviewed once again and the ministry cannot engage in this. He said it is a political demand what kind of mechanisms will be in place to review their cases, and whether a commission will be looking for miscarriages of justice.
“It is a legislative demand when they require to remove or abolish or liberalize certain passages,” he said, adding that the Prison Ministry can only take care of their health, not satisfy any of their demands.
He said the government continues to work setting up a commission to determine errors in cases and that some issues can be solved through dialogue.
The minister said it is impossible to achieve an agreement about demands to remove a passage in the law about being a mafia member and so-called thief-in-law, which is a demand put forth by some of the prisoners.
A few days ago, Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili said that his office is studying the situation in the prisons where prisoners are on hunger strike. He said that the main demand is to create a commission, but there is a small group of prisoners who want to remove passage 223 from the Criminal Code.
“It is early to talk about it as there may be certain cases when people were convicted incorrectly under this law, and they may not be members of the mafia world,” he said. “The fight against organized crime must continue, and we must continue the same position as the previous government had.”
Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani said on Thursday that the government is not planning to review the regulations about thieves in law.
“The mafia must be eliminated forever in order for Georgia to become a modern civilized state,” she said.
Passage 223 was added to the Criminal Code in 2006 by the National Movement, and made being a member of the mafia world punishable with from five to eight years, and set a punishment of seven to ten years for being a so-called thief in law.
It is unknown exactly how many prisoners want this passage abolished. They claim that it allows for interpretation.