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Jailed Ex-Governor of Samegrelo Released After Presidential Pardon
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Jul.'13 / 22:48

A former senior interior ministry officials and ex-governor of Samegrelo region, Tengiz Gunava, was released from jail late on July 30 after he was granted pardon by President Saakashvili.

Gunava was jailed on July 12 after the Tbilisi City Court found him guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to four years in prison. At the time of court’s guilty verdict, Gunava was governor of Samegrelo, the region in western Georgia.

President Saakashvili issued order pardoning Gunava earlier on July 30.

“Those suspected of violation of human rights, torture, beatings and other grave [crimes] will never be granted a presidential pardon, no matter which political team these persons may represent,” President Saakashvili said on July 30, adding that those “idealists who were building the Georgian state and are being punished just because of working for the sake of getting Georgia on its feet” will be granted pardon.

Saakashvili said that Gunava was jailed on trumped-up charges; he also said that Gunava, when he was chief of police of Samegrelo region during the August 2008 war with Russia, saved Georgian military equipment “worth hundreds of millions of Lari” from being destroyed by advancing Russian troops. Saakashvili said that Gunava also helped to “eradicate crime” in Samegrelo region.

“Of course I will release Gunava and of course I will sign [presidential] pardon for Gunava,” said Saakashvili, while speaking after a meeting with visiting leader of the Polish opposition Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński.

Gunava came into public attention in mid-November, 2012 when he was arrested on charges related to illegal possession of arms and drug. Gunava, whom the court at the time released on bail, said charges were fabricated and accused the police of planting weapon; in late December the Interior Ministry said it sacked five of its employees in connection to Gunava’s arrest and no further investigation into this case was pursued against Gunava. The Public Defender said that there were violations during search and arrest of Gunava by the police.

In late November 2012, Gunava was again arrested in connection to separate, unrelated case and charged with embezzlement of 3,000 liters of petroleum and GEL 49,500 in 2012 when he was head of the Interior Ministry’s internal investigations unit. In addition, Gunava was also charged with exceeding official powers with use of firearm and inflicting light bodily injuries to his driver when he served as chief of police of the Samegrelo region in March, 2012. At the time Gunava was again released on bail pending trial.

On July 12 the Tbilisi City Court found Gunava guilty of embezzlement, but acquitted him of other charges involving exceeding official powers.

After he was released late on July 30, Gunava thanked President Saakashvili for the support. A group of UNM lawmakers were among the supporters, who greeted him outside the prison.

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