TBILISI, DFWatch – There is still no confirmation of an alleged raid of a prison in Tbilisi Friday night. In the meantime, one more prisoner has been confirmed dead.
The Prison Ministry confirmed a second death at Geguti prison. Again, the cause of death was heart attack.
The ministry’s statement says Tamaz Chikhradze died in Geguti Prison on June 26. A forensic examination is in progress and the results will become known as soon as it is finished.
The previous prisoner who died was Mikheil Bazaziani on July 7, at Gldani’s prison hospital. Also in this case the official cause of death was hearth attack, according to the ministry.
Bazaziani’s family considers the official cause of death suspicious, because the autopsy was conducted without their permission.
Rumours of a raid of No 8 correctional facility in Gldani, north Tbilisi, started spreading on Facebook and Internet forums Friday evening, with some claiming there were two deaths. Lawyers and human right activists arrived outside the prison and spent the whole night there, but were unable to confirm anything until Monday, when lawyers were let into the prison.
Human rights activist Nana Kakabadze Monday told DF Watch that she and other lawyers spoke with prisoners, but the inmates denied that anything unusual had happened on Friday. Kakabadze suspects that rumors were spread on purpose and hopes the reason for this will soon be found out.
The Public Defender, who focuses on studying the situation in the prisons, was also there on Friday. The ombudsman’s office immediately reported that the rumour that a special unit had raided the prison was a lie and called for people to avoid reporting and spreading such information.
On Monday, the ombudsman published a report about No 8 correctional facility, after observing the situation there carefully.
Representatives of the ombudsman’s office met with 391 prisoners. The report says that no traces of violation were observed. The prisoners said it was disinformation, what was reported a few days ago.
But the ombudsman published a new document which describes problems prisoners are having at this prison. They speak about a strict regime and they are punished because of small violations, like laughing. They have to whisper, otherwise they will be punished. The amount of time to walk has been reduced to 15-20 minutes instead of one hour. They aren’t allowed to lie on their own beds before 17:00. They aren’t allowed to sleep from 17:00 to 22:00, but at 22:00 they are obliged to lie down.
Prisoners tell that they are punished if they even say hello to a familiar prisoner, also if they look out of the windows, especially from cells with windows facing directly at the administration building. The punishment for this is to be placed in solitary confinement.
Some of the prisoners who were in such cells told the ombudsman’s representatives that they were punished for lying on the bed during daytime hours, others for laughing. Usually they aren’t placed in quarantine in order to be punished, but all of them say that they are brought from solitary confinement to quarantine for several days, and then they are placed into ordinary cells. But the prisoners are then placed in other cells than their previous ones before the punishment.
In solitary cells, their bed is taken away during daytime and they have to stand or sit on a chair the whole day. Prisoners are restricted from talking to the press. They are only provided with tabloid magazines like Sarke, Tbiliselebi and Reitingi and crossword puzzles.
The high number of deaths in Georgian prisons is a cause for concern for local groups and the international community.