TBILISI, DFWatch–The National Movement blames the government for allowing the mafia to run the prisons in Georgia.

Mikheil Ghurtskhaia, spokesperson for the Prison Ministry, does not deny that criminals have power in the prisons, but told DF Watch that when UNM was in government, it appointed criminals as prison supervisors.

The title ‘thief-in-law’ dates back to Tsarist Russia and continued to be used during the Soviet Union. It is considered the highest rank in the criminal underworld. They are often also called ‘generals of the criminal world’. Accordingly, they manage the world of criminals.

Half of the world’s thieves-in-law have Georgian origins. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and after Georgia declared independence, Shevardnadze’s government also used this system. Saakashvili’s government started fighting against the mafia and is thought to have managed to defeat the so-called thief mentality. Today, the majority of such criminals have sought shelter in Russia or other post-Soviet countries.

The UNM now accuses the new government of having brought back the ‘thieves’. At a briefing Thursday, UNM spokesman Tariel Potskhveria claimed that a thief-in-law manages the prison hospital. He is also known as Tarasa. He further claimed that Ksani prison is managed by Murman Lvildini, also known as Khalva, also Irakli Malania, Iko Nokhadze, Kakha Gurgenidze and Edgar Mamedovi.

UNM members further claim that in Ksani, Lasha Keburia supervises the common areas, Zakro Jangulishvili supervises solitary cells, while Jaba Khosberuashvili and Avtandil Tavadze watch over the diner and Giorgi Ildani the hospital.

They also claim that the crime boss Armais Grigoriani, or Maisa, watches over the tuberculosis zone; that Lasha Kvantaliani controls Geguti colony, while Miriana, or Zhinvala watches over Prison No 6 in Rustavi. UNM members claim Prison No 17 in Rustavi is being watched by Gela Terterashvili and Kirile Pkhakadze, who according to them was convicted of murdering two policemen.

According to the same scheme, the well-known Gldani Prison No 8 also has watchers. They are Zurab Noiashvili and Zurab Bregadze, known as Prakola, who according to UNM was convicted of murdering a UN employee.

Mikheil Ghurtskhaia, spokesperson for the ministry told DF Watch that there are so-called criminal authorities in the prisons, but unlike when UNM was in government, ‘prison administrations do not appoint them anymore’.

Ghurtskaia says the former government attempted to replace the so-called criminal authorities in prisons, but only managed to do this in Gldani Prison, which ‘transformed into a criminal place itself’.

“The fact that prisoners have a leader is a natural process, and the peninentiary system of every country has the same problem,” he says, adding that the ministry has already in place a mechanism to fight against it; the prison supervisory institute.

He says that the UNM members used the mechanism of batons, beating, rape and threats and established order this way.

Ghurtskaia calls is cynical and shameful to say there is violence in the prisons today, when about 800 people were killed or died in the prisons during the previous government.

“Now the violence has been reduced ten times,” he added.