Georgian president pardons imprisoned opposition politicians, former Tbilisi mayo Ugulava, ex defense minister Okruashvili
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has pardoned former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, a current leader of the European Georgia opposition party, and Irakli Okruashvili – the former Minister of Defense of Georgia.
The Georgian opposition has been demanding their release since March, when the opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream party came to an agreement about how to hold the upcoming parliamentary elections. The opposition says that as part of the agreement, the government promised to release several high profile opposition leaders and activists, who they claim have been held as political prisoners.
In her briefing on the pardon act, President Zurabishvili said she does not consider Ugulava and Okruashvili political prisoners, but criminals, and that the decision was made to maintain the country’s international reputation and stability in the run up to the elections.
“I would like to make it clear that the agreement reached, which I also welcome, remains somewhat ambiguous (which is the responsibility of both sides), which could call into question constitutional changes, changes to the Electoral Code, and therefore endanger one of our main goals – fair and peaceful elections”, Zurabishvili said.
She also said that the opposition is “trying to manipulate the situation, provoke unrest, move the processes into the streets against and provoke destabilization.”
“Therefore, I believe that I have a duty to find a solution, to ease the situation, to maintain stability and to maintain the international prestige of the country! That’s why I made this decision,” Ziurabishvili said.
The Georgian government and ruling Georgian Dream party says it made no such agreement back on March 8 when the deal was struck, as ‘there are no political prisoners in the country’.
In recent days, several Western politicians, including Jim Risch, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have called on the Georgian government to comply with the agreement and release ‘political prisoners.’