190 persons, whom the Parliament recognized as political prisoners, were released from jails on Sunday, a day after Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili signed bill on amnesty into law.
The amnesty will also apply to thousands of other inmates – about 3,000 of them will be released and others’ sentences either halved or reduced by one-third or one-forth.
In December Parliament passed a resolution recognizing 190 inmates as political prisoners and 25 other persons as being in political exile.
“Today is a historic day. Persecution of those who were arrested on political motives is now over,” Ucha Nanuashvili, the Georgian Public Defender, told journalists outside Gldani prison No.8 in Tbilisi on Sunday where he was observing release of political prisoners.
“There were dozens and hundreds of political prisoners in Georgia; it is being put to an end today,” Nanuashvili said.
Before becoming the Public Defender in December, 2012, Nanuashvili chaired a human rights watchdog group, Human Rights Center, and in this capacity he was a member of the working group at the parliamentary committee for human rights which led the process of compiling list of political prisoners and exiles.
In the list there were about five dozen persons were arrested amid street protest rallies in spring, 2011 on charges mainly related to illegal possession of weapons and drugs and resisting police. The list also includes persons from an Orthodox group, who were convicted in connection to a fistfight in Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV studio in 2010.
The list included those twenty persons, both former military servicemen and civilians, who were convicted into the case known as Mukhrovani mutiny in early May, 2009 amid opposition’s street protests.
The list also includes several persons who were convicted for charges related to espionage. Among them is former diplomat and military analyst Vakhtang Maisaia, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in January, 2010.
There are eleven persons in the list who were convicted into the so called Enveri espionage case in 2010.
These cases related to espionage were heard by courts behind the closed doors.
Several of those persons who were convicted for espionage charges, including Vakhtang Maisaia, said after they were released on Sunday that they would seek declassifying of their cases; they also say that they want public to see that charges against them were fabricated.
The amnesty bill, passed by the Parliament in December, was vetoed by President Saakashvili. One of his main objections was related to the release of inmates, recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners.
The Parliament, however, overturned the veto and Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili signed the bill into law on January 12.
President Saakashvili said on January 12 that by signing this bill into law PM Ivanishvili’s government was taking “responsibility for very grave consequences which will follow mass release of criminals and release of Russian spies [from jails].”