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President Zourabichvili pardons Ugulava and Okruashvili

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Monday, May 18
President Salome Zourabichvili pardoned former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, she announced this decision at a special briefing.

“I would like to address the public, for whom my decision today will not be easy to understand and may not even forgive me. Before I explain the reason for my difficult decision, I have to explain once again the essence of pardoning everyone: I did not pardon political prisoners, because I declare with full responsibility that there are no political prisoners in Georgia today,” said Zourabichvili.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili says she has made one of the most difficult decisions of her term, “I am responsible for finding a solution, easing the situation and maintaining stability, maintaining the country's international prestige - and that is why I have made this decision.”

President’s decision was followed by mixed reviews from both public and political figures. Irakli Kobakhidze, former chairman of the parliament and leader of the majority, says that “pardoning a criminal is the right of the president.” He said they had no communication with the president on the pardon issue and learned of the decision from a briefing.

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said that this was an “unpopular decision, but as a politician, I understand why she had to make such a decision.” According to him, the ruling party had no information about the release of Ugulava and Okruashvili.

MEPs have responded to the Georgian president's decision to pardon opposition party leaders Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili via Twitter. “A step in the right direction. Congratulations to President Zourabichvili,” wrote Andrius Kubilius, who a few days ago sharply criticized the ruling party of Georgia and linked the EU's assistance to Georgia to specific conditions, namely the ongoing reforms in the rule of law, judicial and electoral reforms.

European Parliament member Anna Fotiga wrote on her Twitter, “I welcome the pardon of political prisoners Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili by the President of Georgia. The citizens of Georgia deserve only progress. I look forward to holding the 2020 elections freely and fairly.”

European Parliament member Marina Kaljurand called the president's decision a step in good faith to ease tensions. “I welcome the pardon of Ugulava and Okruashvili as a step taken in good faith towards diffusing tensions. I call on all sides to work together on the implementation of the 8/03 agreement & look forward to further disc. once the state of emergency is lifted,” writes MEP.

Sopho Kiladze, a member of the ruling party, compares the pardon of political leaders Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili to the president's decision to pardon the prisoners convicted of serious crimes.

“We remember that a few months ago there were decisions of the president that we did not agree with. These were, in fact, scandalous pardons. In this case, too, we are dealing with pardons that we do not agree with,” stated Kiladze.

For the last few months, leaders of many countries have been addressing the developments in Georgia and were saying that the situation in the country is getting worse. They were especially emphasizing on the political prisoners. However, as the President of Georgia noted, the decision was not influenced by anyone as she believes that there are no political prisoners in the country.