May 5, 2003
In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, thousands of inmates have launched a hunger strike to protest poor living conditions, bad food and widespread TB, justice officials said Saturday. Negotiations with the prisoners have begun, said Justice Ministry spokesperson Vika Kavzharadze, who acknowledged that the nation's 8,000 inmates live in conditions that are, in general, "far from civilized European standards." She added that hundreds of inmates have TB, and that many of them have stopped taking their medications as part of the strike. About 4,600 inmates have joined the strike, according to a Justice Ministry official who requested anonymity.