A former Georgian jail guard who made videos of prisoners being raped and beaten that shocked the nation and sparked widespread protests said Friday he acted to end torture in the ex-Soviet state.
He was speaking from Brussels as in Tbilisi, President Mikheil Saakashvili alleged that their release had been politically timed to influence the upcoming election.
But former guard Vladimer Bedukadze told AFP: "I wanted to bring an end to all of this once and for all."
The row provoked by the videos has already forced two ministers to resign amid a scandal that has damaged Georgia's ruling party amid a bitterly fought election campaign.
Bedukadze, 35, said he had served from 2008 as deputy chief warden in the Gldani jail in the suburbs of Tbilisi, where he began filming horrific scenes of prisoner abuse from 2010 until his resignation earlier this year.
"I wanted to show what went on so people would know," Bedukadze said in Brussels, where he says he is claiming political asylum.
Saakashvili insisted Friday that the release of the videos had been timed to influence the polls on October 1. His ruling party faces a challenge by an opposition coalition led by billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has vowed to oust the government.
Accusing unnamed opponents of orchestrating the scandal to gain political advantage ahead of the vote, Saakashvili said: "He who ordered this, paid for this or turned a blind eye to this must not benefit from it."
In a televised speech, Saakashvili questioned the timing of the release of the videos showing the rape and beating of male prisoners in jail, which he admitted were "terrible crimes".
"One must ask the question: what did they keep all this for? They were keeping it for the elections," he said.
Bedukadze however denied being an agent of the opposition in the small ex-Soviet state which has seen repeated outbreaks of political turmoil since independence in 1991.
"I wasn't paid. It was a personal protest," he said.
His lawyer Abdelhadi Amrani also denied that Bedukadze was working for billionaire Ivanishvili, whom the authorities have accused of seeking to destabilise Georgia with his Russian-earned fortune.
"If there'd been no torture, the videos wouldn't have existed," the lawyer said.
The former guard, who is wanted for arrest in Georgia in connection with the alleged crimes, said he fled with the tapes in May and reached Brussels in July but has so far failed to get his family out of his home country.
He said he leaked the videos only days ago after the authorities produced an allegedly fake tape of prisoner abuse incriminating him and his friends.
Bedukadze says he was ordered to make the tapes by a prison official to "blackmail inmates or scare political detainees".
The videos have drawn widespread international condemnation and forced the Georgian interior minister and prisons minister to resign.
The authorities have acted quickly in an attempt to calm the outrage, appointing the country's highly critical human rights ombudsman as prisons minister, sending police into jails to replace prison guards and vowing a total overhaul of Georgia's jails to eradicate abuses.
"Look at how we reacted -- we reacted like a 21st-century, modern, democratic government. We have completely dismantled the system which made such systemic failures," Saakashvili said.
But protests continued for a third day Friday in Georgia amid widespread outrage ahead of the upcoming polls.
One of the graphic videos that caused the outrage showed a weeping half-naked male prisoner in a Tbilisi jail begging for mercy before apparently being raped with a stick. Other footage showed prison guards brutally kicking an inmate.