President Saakashvili said on December 27 that he would not sign bill on amnesty into law.
The announcement means that the President will now send the bill back to the Parliament with his objections.
The Parliament will either take those objections into consideration or will try to override the presidential veto, which requires support of at least 89 lawmakers.
President’s objections, according to his remarks, will concern mainly two aspects of the bill – one that grants full amnesty, that is release from prison, to those 190 inmates, who have been recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners and another one through which prison term of those convicted even for especially grave crimes will reduce by one-fourth.
“Amnesty is announced when there is a stable situation in the country and when you can gradually empty prisons,” Saakashvili said while speaking at a meeting with a group of students in the presidential palace in Tbilisi.
“Not a single serious international organization has ever said that there are political prisoners in Georgia,” Saakashvili said. “The Georgian Parliament announced that there are 200 political prisoners in Georgia… and by doing so we are at least declaring that we are unserious country and if someone takes this [decision by the Parliament] seriously, it means that we are North Korea, Burma, Belarus and 1970s’ African Idi Amin-type of dictatorship combined.”
Saakashvili emphasized particularly on those in the list of political prisoners, who were convicted for espionage in favor of Russia and for mutiny charges in connection to Mukhrovani case.
“When you release Russian spies, then it is done either to spite me – and I can more or less understand it, or becuase of direct orders from Russia,” Saakashvili said.
“So I will veto this part [of the bill],” he said. “I think that rest of the mass amnesty is also completely unacceptable.”
He said that he was also against of granting any kind of amnesty to those serving prison terms for especially grave crimes.
“So I am vetoing these parts [of the bill] granting amnesty to pedophiles and let the Parliament override [the veto] and let the Parliament take the political responsibility for releasing [from prison] pedophiles, coup [plotters] and Russian spies, but I will not definitely sign it,” Saakashvili said.
The bill on amnesty, passed by the Parliament with its final reading on December 21, envisages several forms of amnesty such as full exemption from punishment; halving of prison sentence or reducing it either by one-third or by one-forth.
Unlike its initial version, the final document envisages applying reduction of prison sentence by one-fourth to almost all the prisoners, who will not fall under other forms of amnesty, including to those convicted for especially grave crimes – something that was opposed even by some of the Georgian Dream lawmakers, including MP Koba Davitashvili.
Even the government, although it was in overall positive about the bill, had its concerns.
In particular, the Interior Ministry was offering lawmakers to limit the scope of the amnesty by not applying it to certain category of crimes, but this proposal was not accepted by the lawmakers.
How the Parliament, in particular the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority, will respond to the President’s planned veto has yet to be seen.
GD has now 83 lawmakers, but it can count on support from those lawmakers who have quit President Saakashvili’s United National Movement party and in case of attracting their votes, which is not unlikely, GD will be able to fill the gap and garner 89 votes required for overriding presidential veto.