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12 Jun, 2008 01:50

Women starve over prison conditions in Georgia

More than 100 inmates at a Georgia's women's prison have gone on hunger strike over poor conditions and unfair detention. They say their cases are politically motivated in the wake of recent election turmoil.

The grey concrete walls of Georgia's women's prison present a formidable barrier. The prison used to be regarded as the best in Georgia, but a ban on conjugal visits and a growing overcrowding problem has led to a protest.

About 100 inmates have been on hunger strike since Saturday in a bid to get their voices heard. They want better conditions, time off for good behaviour, and to have their cases reviewed.
One of the hunger strikers is perhaps the jail's best known inmate – Maia Topuria. An opposition activist for the pro-Russian Justice Party, she was found guilty of trying to overthrow the government in 2007. The alleged coup plot was big news in Georgia, but the trial was closed to the public, leading many to believe that her conviction was unfair.
Her children are 11 and 13. Every ten days they get to visit their mother. The prisoner's sister Ia, who looks after the children now, is worried that the hunger strike will affect her sister's health, and hopes the protest ends quickly.

“Even being in good conditions there she is suffering from some health problems and this is what I'm most afraid of,” Ia said.

The strikers say they will continue until at least some of their demands are met, but so far it doesn't look like any concessions are going to be made.