Public Defender Sozar Subari said on June 6 that concerns have increased that the March 27 prison incident in Tbilisi, which resulted in the death of seven inmates, was triggered by prison system chief Bacho Akhalaia.
Sozar Subari made these allegations after interviewing one of the inmates, whose surname is Mamardashvili, who, according to the authorities, was among those behind the riot in Tbilisi’s prison number 5 overnight on March 27. Subari showed journalists video footage of this interview during a press conference on June 6.
Shortly after the March 27 prison incident the Justice Ministry issued video footage shot by a hidden camera on March 25. The footage showed two persons, described as ‘thieves-in-law’ or criminal authorities, instructing an inmate to find a prisoner who would injure himself in an attempt to demonstrate the unbearable conditions in the prison and serve as a pretext for demanding the resignation of chief of the prison system, Bacho Akhalaia.
One of these so called ‘thieves-in-law’ was Mamardashvili.
In the interview with Sozar Subari Mamardashvili says that he cooperated with the prison authorities and that the March 25 conversation with the other inmates was organized covertly by the prison officials, and Bacho Akalaia in particular.
“We had information from other inmates that Mamardashvili was cooperating with the prison officials, but we could not voice this information because we had no evidence of this. But recently Mamardashvili himself decided to admit this fact… Although we cannot yet claim that Mamardashvili’s testimony is true, the fact that he could meet with two other inmates in the prison and talk about the alleged plot against the prison officials makes us think that this meeting was held with the consent of the prison officials,” Sozar Subari said.
Mamardashvili, who was regarded as an influential criminal boss, was isolated from other inmates and would not have been given the chance to meet with other prisoners without the consent of the prison officials, Subari added.
Mamardashvili also says in his interview with the Public Defender that no one planned a riot in the prison and the situation spiraled out of control only after Bacho Akhalaia started beating one of the inmates in the prison hospital next to prison number five. This triggered a protest by the inmates in the prison hospital; later, inmates in the fifth prison also joined this protest, which eventually grew into riot.