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Not many pardons granted for this New Year

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 31
A meeting of the Pardon Commission was held at the Avlabari Presidential Residence on December 30, at which the cases of 87 convicts, including 14 women and 1 underage boy, were discussed. The meeting decided that only a quarter of these prisoners should be pardoned.

Commission members said that the discussion had been very difficult, as a significant number of the cases being considered were of people convicted for serious crimes such as gangsterism, robbery, drug dealing and so on, and this is the main reason why many of them have not been released. Pardon Commission head Elene Tevdoradze stated that most of the pardoned prisoners had been jailed for less serious and often unusual crimes. "One released man had been convicted of robbery because he had stolen gifts for his sweetheart from his relatives and another had liked a pair of shoes he saw in a shop, taken his own off, put them on the shelf in their place and put on the new shoes,” Tevdoradze said.

Tevdoradze added that only one women of the 14 whose cases were considered has been recommended for a pardon and one underage prisoner. "We have also released several people imprisoned for serious crimes, as some of them have very serious health conditions and some have several underage children who need a father’s attention and assistance,” said the Commission head.

The commission also halved the sentences of some convicts. Public Defender Giorgi Tughushi said, "We had a great desire to release as many convicts as possible for the New Year, but unfortunately their cases and crimes have not enabled us to do so. However we have compiled a list of people who we will recommend to the President that their sentence be halved,” Tughushi stated.

Akaki Minashvili and Gia Arsenishvili, who also serve on the Pardon Commission, explained that although the number of pardons recommended is small these decisions must be made extremely carefully, so that those released do not pose a threat to society. "We have released those people, who will not find it difficult to return to society and will not be dangerous to it. The Georgian People’s security and peace of mind come first for us,” Minashvili said.

It emerged after the meeting that the Georgian Patriarchate has also drawn up a list of convicts it recommends should be released. This list has already been sent to the President, who will decide on each case and sign the relevant document. Mikheil Saakashvili is to sign the pardons on December 31, and only after this will the exact number of prisoners being pardoned be known. The pardoned prisoners will be released that day so that they can celebrate the holiday at home.