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Saakashvili reduced jail terms for voters2010-04-05 23:07
On the Orthodox holiday president Mikheil Saakashvili made a populist act releasing almost 400 prisoners. Easter was a pretext to for this gesture of generosity which in reality was aimed at reinforcing positions of the ruling party in the run up to local elections.
Not only inmates but their large families were delighted over the Easter present for prisoners. The authorities pleased a significant part of the Georgian population suppressing protest attitude of the opposition.
Under the decree on presidential pardon 38 terms were reduced by half, 7 arrests were replaced by conditional sentences, 386 prisoners were fully acquitted with 37 women and minors among them. At 15:00 sharp on Saturday the pardonees and early-release prisoners were set free.
Besides, four prisoners were granted "a leave" for Easter time paroled by Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, minister of corrections, probation and legal assistance.
Prison "vacationers" spent three days with their families - a method supposed to help them get resocialized and reintegrated into society. The novelty was introduced last year when parliament adopted amendments into the law On Imprisonment mitigating measures for sustentation of prisoners.
"Prison issues" became particularly acute in post-revolution Georgia with Mikheil Saakashvili, the corruption fighter, rising to power. Imposing order in public structures and dueling with competitors led to increased number of prisoners from 5,000 to 21,000. The number or prisons and penitentiary facilities remained almost unchanged. As a result wards were packed and those who were released now win cases in the European Court of Human Rights.
Last spring Strasbourg judges charged Georgian authorities EUR 26,000 to be paid to ex leaders of 202 independent TV company - Shalva Ramishvili and David Kokhreidze. They were convicted for blackmailing a deputy. Not for the wrong accusation were they awarded compensation - but for inhuman conditions of imprisonment.
Rustavi prison №. 2 suffers intense shortage of beds, and people are forced to sleep in turns. Food and observance of personal hygiene rules are also great problems. This is what Ramishvili told about as a host of a talk show adding that the prison's shower room works every odd day since, as the prison administration states, the facility has considerable gas and water debt. So prisoners need to return home for a leave not only to get resocialized but for mostly hygienic purposes.