The messenger logo

Saakashvili pardons former governor of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti

By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, August 1
The former governor of the Samegrelo Zemo Svaneti region, Tengiz Gunava, has been pardoned. He was released from the No. 9 penitentiary late at night on July 30th after President Mikheil Saakashvili signed a decree on his pardon. The document was immediately forwarded to the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia and Gunava left the prison. Family members and friends welcomed him outside, whom he thanked for support and devotion.

According to the former governor, he plans to continue political activity. After leaving the prison Gunava told the media that the conditions he was kept in were satisfactory. He expressed his gratitude to the president for pardoning him and to his party, the United National Movement (UNM) for supporting him.

“I have always been there, where my country needed me and I will continue to do so in the future,” Gunava said.

Gunava was pleaded guilty to embezzlement while he was serving as head of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Investigations Department. Arrested on July 12 he was sentenced to four years imprisonment. However, he appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals and a trial was to be held soon.

Saakashvili announced his intention to pardon Gunava at a joint press conference held together with the former Polish Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, on July 30th. The president said he would never use his right to pardon those who are accused of violence and torture, but he believes Gunava is a “decent” and “honest” man. He helped to save Georgian military equipment during the August War with Russia in 2008, Saakashvili said, praising Gunava for “eradicating crime” in the Samegrelo region, when he served as the chief of police in the region.

"I do not intend to use my right to benefit this category of people, but I intend to protect and pardon those idealists who were building a new state together with me… Of course I will release Gunava and I will sign a pardon for Gunava," Saakashvili said.

The Georgian Dream Coalition does not agree with the president’s decision. Members of the parliamentary majority say it is a serious problem for the country when the president thinks to pardon those convicted is his exclusive right and that he is entitled to use the right according his personal preferences.

MP from the parliamentary majority, Otar Chrdileli, commented on the pardon and said that the former governor has now been released, but being pardoned by the president does not automatically make him innocent.

Parliament vice-speaker Manana Kobahkidze says she is not surprised by the president’s decision, as Saakashvili has pardoned those convicted in Sandro Girgvliani's murder.

Public defender Ucha Nanuashvili totally disagrees with the president and says that pardoning Gunava when the Court of Appeals date was about to take place, is simply an irresponsible decision.

“The president has the right to issue a pardon decree under any circumstances, there are no restrictions under the law,” Nanuashvili told Netgazeti, but the public defender says it is wrong to pardon a prisoner when his lawyers have appealed the court’s decision and the appeals court has to hold planned trials.