TBILISI, DFWatch — The speaker of the Georgian parliament Saturday signed into law a bill which will release 3 000 prisoners and halve the sentence for 17 000 others in a mass amnesty.
The bill is one of the most tangible results of the unexpected outcome of the parliamentary election in October, 2012, which gave a clear win to an opposition coalition brought together by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, with a mission to clean up President Saakashvili’s ‘crimes’.
Saakashvili twice refused to sign the law, but the governing Georgian Dream coalition controlled enough seats parliament to bypass the president’s veto. The new law has already been published in the government gazette, which means that it has come into force.
Among the first prisoners to leave prison Sunday morning will be 190 political prisoners.
The amnesty applies to prisoners who committed a crime before October 2 of 2012, for those who committed a less severe crime, as well as prisoners who committed crime related to drugs, but not for selling drugs. Most of prisoners will have their sentence reduced, except those who have a life sentence.
The Prison Ministry Saturday published a list of political prisoners who will leave jails on Sunday before 11:00 in the morning.
President Mikheil Saakashvili once again objected to the amnesty, saying that ‘it is unacceptable to massively release so many criminals, rebels and those engaged in violent crimes’.
He thinks it is a difficult time, as parliament still adopted the law, which he blocked by using his right to veto.
“This way those people take the responsibility of the very severe results which will follow the release of too many criminals,” he said.
Goka Gabashvili, member of parliament for the National Movement party, Saturday said that the current government is taking a very dangerous step against the safety of Georgian citizens and the state, hiding behind pseudo-humane arguments. Spies and criminals will be let out, he said.
Those who are against the amnesty say that such a large scale amnesty is unprecedented and they draw attention to the amnesty in 1920, when ‘all Russian spies were let outside.’
“This is the political responsibility of the majority and personally of [Prime Minister] Bidzina Ivanishvili.”
But Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili said the new government believes that this step will be important to unite society and create more freedom, instead of problems. He said that while signing the law, he and the new government are taking responsibility for issuing such a law hoping that those who are let out of prison will also be responsible.
“I understand that the law caused concern in society and I understand this, as the law applies to a very important and sensitive field – the law applies to release from jail those people who have been serving their sentence for a long time.”
Usupashvili said the law on amnesty is a humane act from the new government and somewhat an apology for ‘the former government’s errors.’
He said if anyone was sentenced to eight years in jail, they will have to serve two years less, which is compensation and an apology for each day spent in jail, which may be equal to 3-4 days of torture.
The Speaker of Parliament calls on prisoners to make correct conclusion for the government’s decision, which will be to get back to normal life in Georgian society as full-fledged members.
“We will do everything for their re-socialisation,” he said, but didn’t specify if the government has any plans for prisoners who are released.
Usupashvili called on law enforcement bodies to be attentive and help people who are let outside.
Parliament first confirmed the law on amnesty at the end of December. It only needed the signature of the president to come into force, but he refused and sent it back to parliament with corrections.
Parliament didn’t adopt his version of the law and once again confirmed the first version, and sent it back to the president for him to sign. Saakashvili could sign the law within seven days, but he still refused to do it, which is why the Speaker of Parliament today signed it into law.
A rally was organized today at the Occupation Museum in Tbilisi to protest the enforcement of the amnesty law.
“Let’s gather and say no to releasing Russian spies, pedophiles and criminals,” organizers said.
Participants at the rally think the amnesty will worsen the crime situation in the country. About 50 persons participated.
When Prime Minister Ivanishvili spoke about the amnesty, he asked citizens to accept a possible increase in petty crime. His opponents still criticize him for this statement.