President Saakashvili said overriding his veto on amnesty bill by the Parliament was “shameful”, “dangerous”, which would become “disgraceful page in the history of the Georgian parliamentarianism”.
In a live televised address to the nation few hours after the Parliament overturned the veto on December 28, President Saakashvili said that he refused to sign amnesty bill into law because he wanted “to prevent the country from the most negative aspects of this bill.”
He said that he also wanted to prevent release from jails “pedophiles, Russian spies, coup plotters and mutineers”.
The bill on amnesty envisages granting full exemption from punishment, among others, those 190 inmates who have been recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners, including those convicted for espionage for Russia and for mutiny charges in connection to Mukhrovani case. The bill does not envisage full exemption from punishment those convicted for sex crimes against minors; it, however, grants such convicts reduction in prison term by one-fourth.
“The Georgian Parliament overturned the veto and hence took full responsibility for fundamentally anti-state and dangerous act, which is being carried out against our state institutions and our society,” Saakashvili said.
“The Parliament has released [from prison] all the Russian spies. Russia is the country, which poses existential threat to Georgia’s national security,” Saakashvili said, adding that all the cases of espionage where “well-investigated”.
“Release of Russian spies is not only unimaginable illegality and poses threat to country’s security, it will also encourage those who are ready to carry out similar acts of treason in the future,” Saakashvili said, adding that “not a single self-respectful country” would have done it.
“Today the Georgian Parliament set a precedent that one can betray own country… stage mutiny and it can be pardoned just because of the change of government. This is very dangerous,” Saakashvili said.
“This is shameful,” he said. “I note it with a huge regret.”
Saakashvili also said that recent developments in Georgia, including those related to amnesty bill, as well as arrests and police questionings of some of the former high-ranking officials were “celebration of injustice”
“There is also a celebration in a capital of one country, whose [leadership] states that they have received positive signals from [Georgia’s] new government,” Saakashvili said referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks, who said on December 20 that there were “positive signals – so far very modest, but anyway positive signals coming from Georgia’s new leadership.”
“Today they [Georgia’s new authorities] sent [to Moscow] yet another very positive signal; they have probably won, but Georgia today definitely lost,” Saakashvili said.
“I think that this is a temporary defeat and we will reverse everything, but for this to happen we need the society to stand together and to hold openly discussions about all of these issues in order to make our conclusions,” he added.
Saakashvili also said that he did not want to scare the society, but the bill on amnesty would result into significant increase in crime rate. Amnesty would result into release of at least 3,000 prisoners, but the figure may further increase as many others would become eligible to apply to pre-term release after amnesty grants them halving of sentence or its reduction either by one-third or one-fourth. Applying for pre-term release does not automatically mean that such inmates will be released as their cases have to be reviewed individually by a special commission.
Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili dismissed Saakashvili’s remarks as “hysteria” and said that the President was “irritated” about two issues – one over the fact that political prisoners will be released and another one on the fact that the Georgian Dream has enough majority in the Parliament to override the presidential veto. He also said that more inmates had been released through presidential pardon over the past one year, then the Parliament’s amnesty envisaged. Usupashvili also said that many people were jailed under the previous authorities for “suspicious charges.” Georgia’s prison population, one of the highest in terms of per capita in the world, started to decline from the beginning of this year from over 24,000 in January to 21,425 in October. The figure apparently continued its downward trend in November and December too as some inmates were released either through pre-term release mechanism or presidential pardon.
The Interior Ministry also had its concerns about the scope of the amnesty and also in respect of enlisting some of the inmates, who were convicted for espionage charges, among political prisoners.
Interior Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who is a close ally of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, 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.”
Asked about this remarks by the Interior Minister, Usupashvili told Rustavi 2 television station on December 28 that having differing positions between the Parliament and the government was normal.