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A biased amnesty2009-04-08 19:26
A further amnesty is being planned in Georgia to mark Easter Sunday. According to provisional reports, the president is intending to pardon about 400 people. City residents are splashing out on electronic security systems and new security equipment. What can be expected from the protest actions coinciding with the amnesty? Politicians are making their own demands for the amnesty.
As the state pardoning commission reports, the list of prisoners to be pardoned that has been compiled by the Public Defender Sozar Subari is currently being examined by the state chancellery. The Georgian media, in turn, are writing that the pardoning commission has not yet released any additional information on this issue. Although stormy debates have already flared up over the planned amnesty.
The opposition deputy, Djondi Bagaturia, from the party Kartuli Dasi has appealed to the authorities to make a concession to the opposition and release all political prisoners. "If the government releases political prisoners, this will be a signal to the whole of society that the government is ready for a genuine dialogue aimed at achieving results, not just dialogue for the sake of it," nregion quotes Bagaturia. According to the deputy, he has previously given the pardoning commission a list of 18 citizens whom he considers political prisoners. He included on this list the sister of the former presidential plenipotentiary in the Kodori Gorge, Nora Kvitsiani, as well as supporters of Igor Giorgadze and several other figures.
The authorities are not even hinting that they will release political prisoners. In late 2008 there were already some serious battles over this. Saakashvili announced the largest amnesty yet in honour of the fifth anniversary of the Rose Revolution. Hence on 17th December, on St. Varvara's Day - the religious festival Barbaroba that is widely celebrated in Georgia - 1280 people were released. The opposition, who were becoming increasingly active as the year came to an end, did not hide their indignation.
They demanded a liberalization of the criminal code and the release of political prisoners. But on a wave of political crisis, the authorities did not get round to liberalizing the criminal code. Human rights activists are just noting that since President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2003, the number of prisoners in the republic has increased two and a half times over - from 6,274 to 15,432 people. This is corroborated, as the News-Georgia agency reports, by statistics for 2006 released by the Ministry for Justice. This year Mikheil Nikolaevich declared that the fight against crime was being waged so successfully that Georgian "thieves in the law" are apparently moving to Russia.
At the same time, a new prison has just started to be built in Georgia. According to the Ministry for Sentencing, Probation and Legal Aid, the construction of the new penitentiary facility in the village of Ksani to accommodate 2500 prisoners will be financed out of the state budget, and 10 million lari has been put forward to achieve this. It should be noted that the construction of a prison on the back of a successful fight against crime and mass amnesties is a foolish way to spend state funds during the crisis. Although we shouldn't expect to give up this paradoxical thinking.