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Prosecutor’s Office launches investigation on possible abuse of power while pardoning convicts

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Monday, September 23
The Office of the Prosecutor General of Georgia has launched an investigation into the possible abuse of power in the process of pardoning convicts Ramaz Devadze, Aslan Bezhanidze, Zurab Nadiradze, and others.

The offense is provided for under Article 332 paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, abuse of official powers by an official or by a person equal thereto to the detriment of public interests, in order to gain some benefit or advantage for himself/herself or for another person, which has resulted in substantial violation of the rights of physical or legal persons, or of the lawful interests of the public or the state.

According to the criminal code of Georgia, the offense shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment for up to three years, with deprivation of the right to hold an official position or to carry out a particular activity for up to three years.

Previous decisions of the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, to pardon convicted murderers have been a subject of controversy for several weeks now. Members of opposition as well as the ruling party have criticized decisions made by the President.

A few days ago, Zourabichvili announced that she would be putting a moratorium on pardoning before the parliament drafts changes to the pardon power.

Saying that she has been consulting with the representatives of the parliament for last few days, she noted during a special press conference that starting from this week “working group will hold a meeting, where all parties will come together and formulate ideal guidelines so that the public will no longer be worried.”

People started protesting the president's decisions after the information about pardoning a person convicted of murdering a police officer Tarash Mukbaniani in 2014 spread by different media outlets. The decision was followed by a massive outrage of society.

The General Prosecutor's Office does not say whether the President or his parliamentary secretary, Dimitri Gabunia, will be questioned during the investigation.

According to Mamuka Mdinaradze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, “when there are specific questions in society, they need specific answers. So, the investigation is the place where we can get the right answers.”

“You know that we criticized this decision in the first days because it was unacceptable. There might be an exclusive right, but there are other issues that can provoke outrage,” noted Mdinaradze.

The Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, joined the public criticism and released a statement calling on the president to ensure maximum transparency and public involvement while using her power.

After a huge outrage in the society, the president explained that she acted within the discretionary powers but later expressed a desire to reconsider the pardon procedure.