Speaker, President Spar over Presidential Pardons

The political row over President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s pardoning practices continues, nearly a month after mounting criticism forced the President to suspend pardoning of prisoners convicted for violent crimes.

The recent episode follows Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze’s statement on May 2, when he accused the President of “abusing” his power to pardon inmates, and stressed its frequent use by Margvelashvili could “theoretically” be related to his “irresponsibility, corruption, or deliberate obstruction of the law enforcement system.”

The Presidential administration was quick to respond to the accusations, saying it would be “absolutely logical,” if the Prosecutor’s office opened a probe into Kobakhidze’s claims.

“These statements are very dangerous, and if they are correct, this can be even more dangerous for the country and its [international] image,” the President’s Political Secretary Pikria Chikhradze noted.

“The Speaker has to immediately report to the Prosecutor’s Office and inform them of what he knows about the matter, and relevant agencies need to launch procedures for establishing truth,” she added.

The two continued to exchange accusations this week as well.

In an interview with Imedi TV on May 8, Margvelashvili stressed the Parliament Speaker’s allegations of corruption and deliberate obstruction of law enforcement agencies should have prompted criminal prosecution and impeachment, respectively, but “the people [who accused me] decided not to refer to the Prosecutor’s Office or launch the impeachment procedures.”

The Parliament Speaker responded to the President in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV later on Tuesday, slamming his remarks as “speculation,” and as “an attempt to divert attention.”

Kobakhidze added that his remarks were “political accusations,” and that there was “no ground for pursuing criminal prosecution.” “Instances of corruption need to be confirmed by factual evidence, and I only spoke of theoretical assumptions.”

Critical remarks against the President emerged last month, shortly after the Interior Ministry confirmed that Vepkhia Bakradze, the suspect in the murder of a 25-year-old woman in Tbilisi on April 13, was released upon Margvelashvili’s pardon a year ago, prompting him to temporarily suspend pardoning of prisoners convicted for violent crimes.

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