Monday, September 29, 2008

Georgian opposition stirring

TBILISI, Georgia -- This fledgling semi-democracy has an oftentimes incoherent and fractured opposition, but it has been showing signs of life since Georgia's brief, but disastrous war with Russia in August.

Some of the opposition have accused the government of concealing the real number of casualties suffered by Georgia, which they saw is much higher than the officially reported 370, including 168 military personnel, 188 civilians and 14 Interior Ministry personnel.

I came across a protest the other day outside Parliament -- of its 150 seats, President Mikheil Saakashvili's National Movement party controls over 120. Family of civil prisoners were protesting the long sentences imposed for possessing even the smallest amount of drugs and the harsh conditions prisoners are kept in. Some 30,000 Georgians are in prison in a country of, at most, 4.5 million people. While not as high as the 1 percent of US population which is incarcerated, it is a very high percentage for such a small country.

"They only get 15 minutes of fresh air a day," said Sveta, whose son is serving out a 10 year sentence for drug possession.

Her son needs medicine for a medical condition, but he doesn't receive it, she said.

Originally from Sukhumi in Abkhazia, her family was driven out in the early 1990s when the region first attempted to breakaway from Georgia.

"Our government does not pay attention to what we want," said Tamarika, whose son is serving seven years in prison.

The size and treatment of Georgia's prison population are not new issues. There have been plenty of protests about the matter. But it is surprising that one would come in the wake of the August war because prison reform is not on people's minds right now. It is very likely that it was organized by some in the opposition interested in stirring discontent with Saakashvili's government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have the right understanding of Democracy there. Georgian as I know is very unique language... so do you even understand a single word on their TV? I speak a little and can say that They are democratic and do have a free media, but they lack experience which should come over the time. And I can't blame them... A small country near Russia... I'm sure it's hard for them and no I don't think the world helps them a lot...

We just don't care. Russia is old and rusty, not very interesting to even think about a threat coming from that huge country.