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Georgia releases 190 political prisoners


13:05, January 14, 2013

TBILISI, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Georgian authorities on Sunday released 190 inmates who were recognized as political prisoners under a newly-enacted amnesty law.

The 190 prisoners released included participants of anti-government demonstrations in 2007 and in 2011, and those taking part in the 2009 mutiny and also some alleged spies, the Georgian ministry in charge of the penitentiary system said.

Some 3,000 more held in Georgian prisons would be able to walk free in coming months after courts review their cases in accordance with the new law, which was signed into effect by Georgia's parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili instead of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

It was the first time in the Georgian history that the country's second-highest ranking functionary has signed a law instead of the president.

"Today is a historic day," said Georgian public defender Ucha Nanuashvili outside No. 8 prison in Tbilisi, where some 70 political prisoners were released on Sunday. "Persecution of those who were arrested on political motives is now over."

Nanuashvili chaired a human rights group before becoming the public defender in December last year.

The same amnesty law is also expected to reduce prison terms by as much as one third for thousands imprisoned in the country.

While signing the amnesty bill into law on Saturday, Usupashvili said he understood the amnesty bill has caused controversy in the country but the bill concerns very delicate and very important issues.

Georgia's 150-seat unicameral legislature earlier passed the bill 80-1, but the draft legislation was vetoed by Saakashvili, who said the mass release of "so many criminals is totally inadmissible."

The parliament then overruled the presidential veto with a ballot of 91-24 late in December.

Vakhtang Maisaia, a former diplomat sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010, said upon release he would seek declassifying cases concerning alleged spies.

"I was not accused of spying for Russia," said Maisaia, "It is written in my case that I was a spy of the NATO special services."

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