In connection with Annunciation Day, Salome Zurabishvili pardoned nine convicted women.
As women prisoners reported by telephone to “Mtavari” TV channel, they are unhappy with the clemency act issued by the Georgian president and consider the decision to be unfair.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani denies a hunger strike. She stated that the president did not pardon convicts for violent crimes. The reasoning for the selection of prisoners was the presence of underage children.
On August 28, 2019, in honour of the holiday of Mariamoba, Salome Zurabishvili pardoned 34 people. The names of pardoned were confidential.
Nevertheless, two names came up whose pardon, as many considered, need at least explanations from the president.
In the case of the first – Ramaz Devadze, convicted of killing a policeman – Zurabishvili simply stated: “I won’t say anything”. Then she added that she would not comment on anything until she returned from a trip to Tbilisi. Eventually, she posted on Facebook, without going into details, about the lack of consensus on the issue of pardon between her and society and expressed that there is a room for improvement.
After all this, Zurabishvili again came under a barrage of criticism – again regarding the pardon. Now we are talking about the murder of David Otkhmezuri, which occurred in October 2004. Although it happened in a crowded place at seven o’clock in the evening, the authorities failed the case. After 12 years, the prosecutor’s office announced progress. In March 2016, Aslan Bezhanidze was detained.
This caused a real scandal. Members of the ruling party also condemned the act of the president, and civil activists staged a protest rally.
The president regretted her decision to pardon Devadze and it was perceived as disrespectful to the police.
According to her, the act of pardon should express a unified impulse of the president and society, and not become the basis for mistrust between them.
Due to the current situation, Salome Zurabishvili has developed rules for pardoning convicts.
On October 31, 2019, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili introduced Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze and Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani to the draft decree on “rules of pardon” developed by the presidential administration.
“Today I heard very interesting opinions on the issue from the Minister of Justice and the Speaker of Parliament. There are no difficulties and I hope that the decree will soon be completed that will take into account the principles that we have agreed on and which are completely acceptable to me,” Said Zurabishvili after the meeting.
As Talakvadze noted, when deciding to pardon a convict, it is important to take into account the nature of the crime committed and the social risks.
Tsulukiani, who had previously openly criticized Zurabishvili for her decision, this time has been more restrained in her assessments.
“We will wait for the decree to be issued so that prisoners, probationers and convicts know what to expect from the pardon procedure,” Tsulukiani said.
As a response to the scandal, Zurabishvili decided to declare a moratorium on the pardoning of convicts for a while. At the same time, the president emphasized that she made the decision in August and she is responsible for it.
Salome Zurabishvili said she would be careful with the decision to pardon Archpriest George Mamaladze, convicted of attempting murder of Secretary-Assistant Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Shorena Tetruashvili.
Members of Synod decided to intercede with the president on behalf of Mamaladze at a meeting on October 31, 2019.
“As for pardon, this is a very sensitive issue. Now in society, passions are raging. Therefore, I will be careful with my decision”, Zurabishvili told reporters.
Pardon is the sole right of the President of Georgia. Despite any recommendations, the final decision belongs to her.