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The News in Brief

Tuesday, November 24
Ilia II Ė God wants to heave Georgia up to a higher level

At the liturgy at the Church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in Tbilisi Catholicos-Patriarch

Ilia II recalled how, after various other tortures, St. George was executed by decapitation in front of Nicomedia's defensive wall on April 23 (May 6), 303. He said that after being tortured, St. Georgia heard the voice of God: ĎGeorge, do not be afraid, I am with youí.

Ilia II said that Georgia is a tortured country and its voice has been heard throughout history. He also touched upon the issue of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saying that Georgia hasnít lost those regions.

"This is our ordeal. We havenít lost Abkhazia. Abkhazia is ours! Abkhazia will return, as well as the Tskhinvali region. This is our ordeal. God wants to heave us up to a higher level," the Patriarch said.

The Patriarch congratulated the Georgian people on the Giorgioba feast and blessed the architects and builders of the Church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste as well as the whole Georgian nation.

President Mikheil Saakashvili attended the liturgy with his family. Ilia II hung a silver cross on him and gave him communion bread.

President pardons 156 convicts

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has pardoned 156 convicts, the head of the Pardon Commission, Elene Tevdoradze, has told InterpressNews.

Tevdoradze said that the majority of these convicts have been pardoned by the mediation of the Patriarchate of Georgia. The Commission had actually discussed 157 cases and as a result some of the individuals concerned had been pardoned by the President on the Commission's recommendation. No women or juveniles were among them.

100 of the pardoned convicts will be released, while others will have their punishments halved.

Parents of detained juveniles prevented from visiting them

The parents of the Georgian juveniles detained in Tshinvali havenít been allowed to visit their children, the Director of Tirdznisi secondary school, Kakha Kakhiashvili, has told InterpressNews.

"The parents have asked Red Cross employees to mediate with the Ossetian side, but reportedly the Tskhinvali regime rejected this," Kakha Kakhiashvili said. According to the de facto Presidentís Representative for Post-Conflict Regulation Issues Merab Chigoev, his agency isnít against the parents visiting their children, but the final decision must be taken by the law enforcement bodies.

The so-called Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Tskhinvali regime detained Tirdznisi pupils Giorgi Romelashvili (born 1995), Aleko Sabadze (born 1995), Viktor Buchukuri (born 1993) and Levan Khmiadashvili (born 1992) on charges of illegally crossing the administrative border on 4 November. The Government of Georgia has asked the international community to help secure their release.

Political movement publishes Ultimatum of Dignity

The political movement Tetrebi has published an Ultimatum of Dignity, addressed to the President. The leader of the movement, Temur Shashiashvili, presented the document to the media yesterday and announced that it would begin collecting the signatures of those who support its content.

The Ultimatum of Dignity consists of 25 demands. They include index-linking the minimum salaries, allowances, scholarships and pensions to the living wage, releasing of political prisoners, instituting public control of the Public Broadcaster and returning TV company Imedi to its legal owners.

The opposition movement is giving the President until March 2010 to fulfil the demands of the Ultimatum of Dignity.
(Rustavi 2)

Latinina hails reforms in Georgia

Russian journalist Yulia Latinina has talked about political and economic reforms and the situation in Georgia after her visit to Georgia on the Access Code programme on Echo Moskvy radio. She hailed how swiftly had Georgia managed to carry out successful reforms.

The Russian journalist said that Georgia should become an example for Russia too. Latinina, who is popular for her human rights protection activities, focused on the problems of law enforcement structures in Russia

Latinina spoke about changes in the Georgian police, who seven years ago were participants in crimes, but today protect the security of their citizens. She denied the possible presence of terrorists in the Pankisi valley and said that people lived there in peace.
(Rustavi 2)

Former Spanish Prime Minister visiting Georgia

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is paying a two-day visit to Georgia. He arrived in Tbilisi late on Sunday night. The Georgian Minister for Economic Development, Zurab Pololikashvili, greeted him at Tbilisi airport.

Yesterday Aznar was due to visit the Tserovani settlement, where IDPs from the Shida Kartli region reside. A meeting with President Saakashvili was also on the agenda. A joint briefing was due to be held after this closed-door meeting.
(Rustavi 2)