U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), released a statement, in which they welcomed Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon opposition leaders Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili.
The Senators stressed they now look forward to seeing the agreed-upon changes made to the electoral system, as well as the release of another alleged political prisoner Giorgi Rurua, pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV’s shareholder, “who was detained in December on spurious charges.”
“This is an important step in the implementation of the March 8 agreement that will modify Georgia’s electoral system and bring an end to political interference in the judiciary,” noted the two Senators.
The Senators added that release of opposition leaders sends “a strong signal” to all those who worked on and signed the agreement that “progress can and will be made.”
President Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon the two opposition leaders came few days after renewed March 8 electoral reform deal controversy, with opposition vowing not to back amendments for electoral reform unless “the second component” of the deal – “the release of political prisoners” were fulfilled. Ruling Georgian Dream party said it had not – in any form – committed itself to releasing “political prisoners.”
Earlier, on May 12, Senator Risch weighed in the controversy, tweeting that he expected Georgian political parties to “fully implement their March agreement, including the release of political prisoners and progress towards a new electoral system.”
Ruling Georgian Dream party’s executive secretary Irakli Kobakhidze then responded that “Senator Risch’s statement is clearly based on an incorrect information.”