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Two thousand prisoners to be pardoned in 2008

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, November 13
Parliament will discuss a draft law concerning a major amnesty of prisoners and convicted persons next week. According to Chair of Parliament Davit Bakradze, about 2,200 prisoners will be allowed to return home by the end of 2008.

“This number [2,200] is about 12 percent of the total prison population of Georgia. In any country this kind of amnesty would be regarded as serious.” Bakradze has stated that the amnesty will concern only those prisoners who “are not dangerous for society” and deserve “to get another chance to return to normal life.” He has also mentioned that this amnesty will be one of the largest in the history of Georgia. In addition, a number of prisoners who are not to be released will have their sentences halved.

The draft law on amnesty was enlarged after discussions with the Parliamentary opposition on November 11. 22 new articles were added. However the non-Parliamentary United Georgian Opposition has criticized the project because political prisoners will not be released.

Speaking at a Press Conference on November 12, Eka Beselia, one of the United Opposition’s leaders, stated that the Government must conduct additional consultations with “real” opposition parties. She said that the amnesty would not apply to prisoners accused of illegal gun possession, hooliganism, participation in riots or attempts to violently change the constitutional order of the country, and most political prisoners were accused of these kind of crimes.

The opposition is also dissatisfied with the number of small crimes which are not included in the list of those for which an amnesty will be granted to those convicted of them. “The article on the use of drugs provides for a jail term of up to one year. According to the draft law, criminals convicted under this article will have their terms halved, and that’s ridiculous,” said Beselia. She also added that the Government should cooperate with international NGO’s when discussing amnesty conditions. “There are some articles [of the criminal code] that this amnesty can’t concern, otherwise these criminals may continue their activity,” stated Bakradze, talking to local journalists.

The amnesty and pardon is meant to start on November 23, in honour of the fifth anniversary of the Rose Revolution as well as St. George’s Day.