The Georgian Orthodox Church said that Patriarch’s remarks calling for giving him power to grant pardon to convicts was made in show of solidarity for inmates and did not aim at demanding to actually discuss the issue at “legislative level.”
After attending along with PM Irakli Garibashvili a theater play performed by female prisoners, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, said: “We had a conversation with Mr. Prime Minister. The Patriarch should have the right to pardon inmates and probably the authorities will raise this issue.”
The proposal voiced by the Patriarch drew criticism from civil society activists, who warned against “theocracy.” PM Garibashvili called on the Parliament and the President to consider the proposal. Under the Georgian constitution only the President has the power to grant pardons and any change in this rule requires constitutional amendment. Some lawmakers from his Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party spoke in favor; but lawmakers from the Republican Party, which is also part of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, voiced opposition and some of them also criticized the PM for asking the Parliament to discuss the issue. A senior lawmaker from UNM opposition party also spoke against the proposal.
Late on Sunday night the Patriarchate released a brief written statement, titled “small explanation”, which says that the performance by inmates in the Rustaveli Theater, after which the Patriarch voiced his proposal, and “atmosphere” in the theater “was very emotional.”
“It was against this very background that His Holiness said it would be better if the Patriarch too had the right to grant pardon to prisoners,” reads the statement.
“It was an idea voiced with the desire for solidarity, support and compassion towards them [inmates] and not as a demand to discuss this proposal at a legislative level,” the Patriarchate said.