The Georgian Dream-led Parliament voted 91-24 to overturn the presidential veto on amnesty bill authorizing release of more than 3,000 prisoners, as well as reduction of prison terms for thousands of others.
At least 89 votes, or three-fifth majority of sitting lawmakers, were required to overturn the veto. Georgian Dream coalition has 83 lawmakers and it apparently attracted support of those MPs, who have recently quit President Saakashvili’s UNM party.
President Saakashvili vetoed the bill on December 27 and returned it back to the Parliament with objections.
The President was against of granting amnesty to those 190 inmates, which have been recognized by the Parliament’s December 5 resolution as political prisoners. He was also proposing MPs not to apply reduction of prison term by one-fourth to those convicted for sex crimes against minors.
The President’s objection also concerned a phrase in a preamble of the bill, which reads: “public demand on restoration of justice”; the President wanted this phrase to be removed from the bill.
President’s objections were rejected with 83 votes to 33. A separate vote was then held to override the veto.
The bill will now again be sent to the President, but if he still refuses to sign it, then the Parliamentary Chairman will have the right to sign the bill into law.
“I will of course sign it into law if Saakashvili again refuses to do it,” said Davit Usupashvili, the Parliamentary Chairman, who is the second highest ranking official in the country after the President.
UNM lawmakers were strongly against of applying amnesty to 190 inmates, recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners; like the President, UNM lawmakers too were especially emphasizing on those who have been convicted for espionage in favor of Russia and for mutiny charges in connection to Mukhrovani case. UNM lawmakers claimed that releasing of these persons was setting a negative precedent and represented “an act against the statehood.” Georgian Dream lawmakers argued that these persons were convicted with lack of evidence.
Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili, a close ally of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, said on December 27 that like the President he too was “against releasing spies”.
Garibashvili further said on December 28, that the Interior Ministry had sent to the Parliament list of those persons which the law enforcement agencies were recommending to be removed from the list of political prisoners. He said these were mainly those who were convicted for espionage charges. Garibashvili also said that “regrettably” the Parliament did not share this recommendation and took “a hasty decision.”
During the debates UNM lawmakers were often citing Garibashvili’s these remarks. Leader of the parliamentary minority group, MP Davit Bakradze, said that it was “a strange” case with government, President and the parliamentary minority group sharing the same position on this particular issue.