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Saakashvili’s statement on pardon policy criticised

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, September 18
Georgian opposition politicians have criticised President Mikheil Saakashvili for his statement that he would “review the pardon policy”. The President said this while visiting the two surviving policemen wounded by a robbery suspect in Tbilisi while detaining him. It emerged shortly after this incident, in which a third policemen was also wounded who later died in hospital, that the man they were trying to detain, 27-year-old Rati Rekhviashvili, was one of the inmates pardoned in December 2008.

MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze from the Christian Democratic Movement said that responsibility for the murder of police officer Givi Aptsiauri rests with President Saakashvili, as Rekhviashvili was pardoned by the President himself, not the Pardon Commission established to recommend early releases. Lortkipanidze said on September 17 that the suspect was one of the 300 detainees pardoned last year by the President personally. The MP demanded that the President name the persons who compiled the list of 300 inmates he pardoned. Christian Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze said that President Saakashvili should pay more attention to the correct procedures for issuing pardons instead of talking about making the early release criteria stricter. “Decisions [about pardons] should be made logically,” Targamadze said. “The relevant processes should be conducted in full accordance with the rules and issues should be addressed in legal ways,” he added.

Mikheil Saakashvili said on September 16 that the rules on pardoning the prisoners should be reviewed, claiming that most of the people pardoned had gone back to their criminal lives. “This bandit, this criminal was released from prison after being pardoned. This convinces me that we should seriously review the pardon policy,” Saakashvili told journalists at the hospital on Wednesday, adding that some of those pardoned had taken the right way on being released, but many were still a danger to society.

Saakashvili claimed that as the Georgian media has many times “shouted” that the police should not use arms policemen are hesitant to use them when needed. “The police needed to use weapons in this case because they were dealing with a bandit. Whenever it is necessary to use arms the police should do so. This dead policeman is the victim of those who say that the police should not have the right to use arms,” the President said. He suggested that if the policemen had killed the suspect the opposition would be holding protest rallies calling the suspect an innocent victim. Giorgi Targamadze responded by saying that the President had made an “irreverent” statement by comparing the murder of a policeman by a person pardoned by himself with the cases of Sandro Girgvliani and Buta Robakidze, which did arouse such public protests.

Some non-Parliamentary opposition representatives said that “it is regrettable that the Georgian Government is using such a tragedy for its own PR purposes.” The Democratic Movement-United Georgia, headed by former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze, released a special statement on Thursday saying that “Of course the police should use arms whenever they are needed to combat criminals and in extreme cases. But when investigations are fairly conducted in a country the public does not question the law enforcement structures. Unfortunately, the reality in this country today is absolutely the opposite. The reaction of the authorities to the murders of Girgvliani, Robakidze and Vazagashvili make this obvious.”

Political analysts suggest that the circumstances under which pardons are issued could be precisely defined by law and not based on “subjective decisions.” “If this was done there would be little possibility that pardoned people would go back to criminal activities,” analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger. “The procedures should be defined by law and not envisage easing the punishment of serious criminals, those who have been convicted two or more times, who are recidivists who will inevitably going back to crime after being pardoned,” he said.