TBILISI, DFWatch–A former high official in the Georgian prison system admits guilt in a case of mistreatment and torture of prisoners, but says he was a victim of the Saakashvili regime.Gaga Mkurnalidze, former deputy chairman of the Prison Department, is one of 17 former prison employees who appeared in court on Monday, to stand trial for torturing prisoners.
His lawyer Koba Mabardnishvili said that Mkurnalidze admits guilt, but also claims that he was a victim of the former regime.
At Monday’s hearing, Mkurnalidze confirmed the testimony in which he admitted guilt.
“He shares complete responsibility and apologizes to all victims,” the lawyer told journalists after the hearing, which was closed to the public, because of subject matter of torture. However some claim it should be open due to the high public interest and criticize the judge for deciding to close the hearing.
The hearing was suspended following a plea by the Prosecutor’s Office to postpone the case. The hearing will continue on March 6.
The prisoner abuse case dates back to September, 2012, when a former prison guard published a handful of video clips that showed humiliating treatment and beating of prisoners.
The airing of the videos less than two weeks before a parliamentary election set off a wave of protests and led to the resignation of the interior minister and the prison minister.
Groups have criticized the new government for not being active enough in cleaning up in the entrenched system of abuse in Georgian prisons.
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