- Interior Minister: ‘I am against releasing spies’ from prison;
Parliament will discuss presidential veto on amnesty bill on December 28, Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary chairman said.
President Saakashvili vetoed the bill and returned it back to the Parliament with his objections.
The President is against of granting amnesty to those 190 inmates, which have been recognized by the Parliament’s December 5 resolution as political prisoners. Objections also concern several other clauses of the bill granting partial amnesty to those convicted for grave crimes.
The Parliament will at first vote for the presidential objections and if not passed, the lawmakers will then try to override the veto requiring 89 votes.
Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary speaker, said that these procedures would take place later on Friday.
Speaking at a news conference Usupashvili said that he did not expect the Georgian Dream lawmakers to change their position about political prisoners; remarks indicate that the issue is likely to be put on vote for overriding the veto.
Usupashvili, one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition, said he was sure that the President’s key motivation behind his decision to veto this bill was his objection over the part of the bill which grants release from prison to those 190 inmates who were recognized by the Parliament as political prisoners.
Usupashvili said that the President and his United National Movement (UNM) party were not willing for obvious reasons to recognize that people were imprisoned in Georgia for political reasons during their rule.
He also said that the President’s objections over several other clauses of the bill, among them reduction of prison term by one-fourth to those convicted for grave crimes, was just a PR stunt in order to justify the veto. Usupashvili said that in December among those inmates who received presidential pardon one was convicted under the article 141 of criminal code, involving seduction of a child under age 16; Usupashvili has also claimed that presidential pardons were also granted to several inmates who were convicted for crimes related to illegal drug trade.
Speaking about reasons behind his decision to veto the bill, President Saakashvili emphasized on December 27 particularly on the issue of granting amnesty to 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 because of direct orders from Russia,” Saakashvili said.
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 President’s objection also concerns a phrase in a preamble of the bill, which reads: “public demand on restoration of justice”; the President wants this phrase to be removed from the bill. He also proposed not to apply reduction of prison term by one-fourth for those convicted for sex crimes against minors.
Interior Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, a close ally of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, said in an interview with the Channel 9 TV on December 27 that he welcomed the amnesty as a human act.
Garibashvili, however, also stressed: “I was and I am still against releasing spies [from prisons]”.
“I believe that when the country’s interests, national interests are concerned, of course, we should be guided by the country’s interests and only afterwards we should take care of other things. So, I have not changed my position in this respect,” the Interior Minister said.
He then also added that in this respect his position concurs with the one of President Saakashvili.
Garibashvili also said that he was against of granting any kind of amnesty to those convicted for keeping large quantities of drugs.
Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili said that objections from the Interior Ministry were normal and demonstrated that despite of being a single political team, there were robust debates between the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority and the government, which was contributing to democracy development.