Relatives hug a former prisoner as he leaves Gldani prison No. 8 in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Nearly 200 inmates considered political prisoners by Georgia's new parliament have walked free under an amnesty strongly opposed by President Mikhail Saakashvili. Many of those who walked free on Sunday were arrested during anti-Saakashvili protests in May 2011. Others had been convicted of trying to overthrow the government or of spying for Russia. (AP Photo)Georgia set free 190 political prisoners who were incarcerated under the previous government after a law pushed through by the country’s new parliament came into effect.
Relatives and supporters gathered outside prisons today to greet those who were amnestied, including political leaders from Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition Georgian Dream. Eka Beselia, the head of parliament’s Committee for Human Rights, symbolically opened the doors of Gldani prison in the capital, Tbilisi, and led prisoners out.
The amnesty bill was signed into law yesterday by parliamentary Chairman David Usuphashvili after lawmakers overturned President Mikheil Saakashvili’s veto on Dec. 28.
Billionaire Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition won parliamentary elections on Oct. 1, defeating Saakashvili’s United National Movement. Georgian Dream promised to restore justice, raise living standards and improve relations with Russia. Georgia fought a war over its breakaway South Ossetia region with its northern neighbor in August 2008.
The bill guarantees the release of 3,000 prisoners and a reduction of sentences for thousands of other inmates.