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Parliament Draws Up List of 'Political Prisoners and Exiles'
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 19 Nov.'12 / 20:02

Parliamentary committee for human rights endorsed on November 19 a draft resolution recognizing 184 persons, arrested and convicted for various criminal charges under the previous government in recent years, as “political prisoners” and 22 others as being “in political exile”.

The draft resolution envisages development of a separate document by the Parliament that will lay out legal mechanisms through which these 184 persons should be released and through which legal proceedings from those recognized as being “in political exile” should be dropped.

The list was compiled by a working group, which was set up earlier this month and included representatives from various human rights watchdog groups. The working group said that for defining persons as political prisoners it used criteria outlined by the Parliament Assembly of Council of Europe in its October, 2012 resolution on “the Definition of Political Prisoners”.

Several dozen of people among those 184, convicted on various charges for “political reasons”, are those who were arrested before, during or after street protest rallies which were dispersed by the riot police on May 26, 2011. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) compiled list of about five dozen persons who were arrested during the 2011 street protest rallies on charges varying from illegal possession of weapons and drugs to resisting police. According to GYLA the cases it has studied lacked due process and evidence to prove criminal charges which were brought against opposition activists, which was a reason to believe that various criminal charges against detained opposition activists were used as a pretext for politically motivated arrests. The list also includes about two dozen of men who were arrested amid May, 2011 street protest rallies and charged with an attempt “to stage armed provocations.”
 
The list also includes those former military servicemen and several civilians who were convicted into the case known as Mukhrovani mutiny in early May, 2009 amid opposition’s street protests. A report, advocating that convicts into the Mukhrovani case were prosecuted on political reasons, was presented to the parliamentary committee by Human Rights Center; it said that the circumstances surrounding events at the tank battalion in Mukhrovani were indicating on disobedience by servicemen rather than on mutiny.

There are also seven persons in the list, who were convicted in connection to series of explosions in Georgia in 2009-2010, including the one in vicinity of the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi. The working group decided to include these persons in the list citing that they were prosecuted and sentenced in violation of national legislation and the European Convention of Human Rights. The working group said that inclusion of these persons in the list of “political prisoners” was not in conflict with the PACE’s October, 2012 resolution, which says that “those deprived of their personal liberty for terrorist crimes shall not be considered political prisoners if they have been prosecuted and sentenced for such crimes according to national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The list also includes several persons who have been convicted for charges related to espionage in favor of Russia; among them is former diplomat and military analyst Vakhtang Maisaia, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in January, 2010 during a trial proceeding behind the closed doors. Others in this category are several former army pilots and others who were arrested into the so called Enveri espionage case in 2010. 

The list also includes eight persons from an Orthodox group, who were convicted in connection to a fistfight in Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV studio in 2010.

The list of persons who are now in self-imposed exile after the previous authorities launched criminal proceedings against them includes several former senior officials, such as ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili and some of his associates, like businessman Kibar Khalvashi and former governor of Shida Kartli region Mikheil Kareli; as well as former head of forestry department Bidzina Giorgobiani; Badri Bitsadze, former head of border police, who is husband of ex-parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze. Many of those former officials, who are now in exile, were sentenced to various prison terms in absentia in Georgia; some of them have a political asylum in Europe, like Okruashivli in France. According to the draft resolution legal mechanisms should be developed through which all the legal proceedings against these individuals will be dropped, allowing them to return back to Georgia.

The list endorsed on November 19 by the parliamentary committee for human rights is not final as the working group will continue accepting applications from those who consider to be prosecuted on political motives for two more weeks.

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