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Ilia II Reaffirms Aversion to Torture

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, September 28
“In this period of troubles our students have paid special attention to the ongoing events and this is praiseworthy,” Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II said today, referring to the recent demonstrations protesting the prison abuse.

In a sermon dedicated to the Day of Ascension of the Holy Cross on September 27th Ilia II said the more the Election Day is approaching the more emotions strengthen. “And we should confine our country to God,” he addressed the Georgian parish.

His Holiness and Beatitude said no Georgian can allow the terror shown on TV. Video footage showing abuse of inmates at Gldani No 6 penitentiary facility was first released on September 19th. Georgian society has reacted strongly against the use of torture in prisons with protest rallies demanding resignation and punishment of government officials and their subordinates. Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze and Minister of Internal Affairs Bacho Akhalaia have resigned but peaceful demonstrations continue.

Ilia II's recent comments that such things happen everywhere created controversy. In his sermon yesterday Patriarch said some people interpreted his remarks as if he approved of torture in the Georgian penitentiary system. “How can a Patriarch approve of such an action? It was greatly wounding for me to hear this,” Ilia II said adding that he strongly discouraged assaulting inmates who are already being punished by serving in prison.

The Patriarch said it is unacceptable to treat people in such a way stressing that this should never happen again. He said if a commission including priests will be created they will be more attentive towards the problem and investigate the violations.

With the Patriarch’s blessing priests and parishioners from four churches walked to Metekhi Bridge to sanctify the capital after the heavy atmosphere of recent days.

Meanwhile a newly established student movement called the Students' Coordination Council released a statement to the Georgian government. "By torturing the inmates the penitentiary system has assaulted all of Georgian society. Today we, the hostages of the regime demand that the government make everyone pay for the crimes they have made by avoiding the responsibilities of the penitentiary system,” reads the students’ statement emphasizing that “the system must be destroyed.”

The students also demanded that the government protect inmates' rights according to human rights conventions as well as ensure healthcare accessibility for those incarcerated in Georgian prisons.

The students also warned government officials to ensure the fairness of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 1st. The students claim that people feel a general mistrust towards the government so officials have to restore the public trust. They said any attempt to falsify elections would be equal to the offence carried out in the penitentiary system. “We peacefully express our protest. No to violence!” the statement reads adding that "the youth have awoken and condemn injustice."