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Political prisoners released

Monday, January 14
Georgia officially recognized the presence of political prisoners in the country and released 190 political prisoners from various prisons on January 13. Majority representatives and civil society representatives called the day “historical” when the president and minority representatives emphasized that with this decision, Georgia now faces an “unprecedented threat.”

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili had refused to sign the draft on amnesty. However, the President’s veto was overridden by the Parliament and after Parliament Speaker, Davit Usupashvili’s signature, the draft turned into law. Based on the law, 190 inmates were recognized as political prisoners and 25 as persecuted on political grounds. The amnesty also concerned 3,000 inmates who will be gradually released over a two-month period.

Majority representatives called it an “historical and humane act”. According to them, those inmates that were amnestied had to live in “unbearable” conditions created by the previous government of Georgia. It has been emphasized that they were “personal inmates of the President and their accusations were absolutely absurd.”

The Ministry of Penitentiary and Corrections and the Minister Sozar Subari underscored that the Prosecutor’s Office will remove the accusations of those 25 individuals persecuted on political grounds within a week.

“As for those inmates who should be released through the amnesty, their documentations will be immediately sent to the courts and we hope that within a month and half period, the process will be concluded,” Subari said.

Head of the Parliament’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Eka Beselia, congratulated the political prisoners and other inmates stating that the cases of the political prisoners will become public.

“All of Georgia should see how absurd the accusations were and how those people spent years in prison illegally,” Beselia said.

The list of 190 political prisoners included about five dozen persons arrested amid the street protest rallies in spring of 2011 on charges mainly related to the illegal possession of weapons and drugs and resisting police. The list also includes twenty persons, former military servicemen and civilians, who were convicted in the case known as Mukhrovani mutiny in early May of 2009.

The list also includes several persons who were charged for espionage. Among them is former diplomat and military analyst Vakhtang Maisaia.

There are eleven individuals on the list who were convicted in the so-called Enveri Espionage case in 2010 concerning Russia.

Almost all the political prisoners stated that they are going to appeal to the court regarding their cases and demand the punishment of those figures who participated in their imprisonment.

“Now it is clear that Saakashvili and his gang have said some absurd things. I was not accused of spying for Russia. It is written in my case that I was a spy of the NATO special services… Mikheil Saakashvili has to answer questions in this regard. I will continue to fight against the regime that still exists in Georgia,” political prisoner Maisaia said.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili also stated that it was a historical day of restoring justice in the country.

“People who were persecuted on political grounds are being released. I think that it is a very important process,” Nanuashvili stated, adding that those people should be given psychological and medical assistance.

The President of Georgia called the fact extremely dangerous for the state security and interests and shifted all responsibility on the new government of Georgia.

“It is an absolutely blind process… it is unacceptable that Russian spies are to be released. However, I am no longer surprised with the decisions made by the new Georgian government. They are giving shelter to all those criminals who had participated in the destruction of Georgian statehood,” the president stated.

The same aspiration was delivered by the minority representatives. According to MP Goka Gabashvili, the new government made an anti-state decision that was hidden behind the humane act.

“All individuals will be released that were serving Russian interests and giving important state information to the enemy," Gabashvili stated.

According to political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze, previous information and materials concerning those individuals named as political prisoners reveal that they might have been illegally arrested.

“It was the method of the previous government to arrest individuals and accuse them of spying in cases where the individual was not favored by the UNM… the famous case of the photographers revealed this better…thus, I think that the process that is ongoing in the country regarding the issue is fair,” Sakvarelidze stated, adding that after the amnesty, the crime rate will increase.

“Through the president’s pardon, individuals will leave prisons that are really dangerous. Thus, the former government believes that the crime rate will increase in the country,” Sakvarelidze told The Messenger.