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President Zourabichvili refuses to pardon archbishop sentenced for attempted murder

By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, January 9
After almost 4 months of a moratorium on the pardoning power of the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili pardoned several prisoners ahead of Christmas on January 6. Archbishop Giorgi Mamaladze was not on the list of the pardoned and the President commented.

“I was guided by the main principle regarding Giorgi Mamaladze, not to promote any new divisions in society with my decision…I could not find an argument why an exception should have been made on the case of Archbishop Giorgi Mamaladze,” said the President at a press conference.

Archbishop Mamaladze was sentenced to 9 years in prison on the so-called Cyanide case on September 5, 2017.

According to the President, infringement of the Patriarch’s authority and an attempt on his life means attacking Georgia itself. She further elaborated on the reasoning behind the decision, saying that she didn’t take into account the Holy Synod’s request to free Mamaladze. She noted that there's a difference between the church’s forgiveness and the State’s pardoning.

“You might ask why I didn't consider the request of the Holy Synod - the answer to this is that there’s a difference between the forgiveness of the church, which is essentially Christian and pardoning from the State. Otherwise, the Constitution would have left the Church this [pardoning] discretionary right,” Zourabichvili added.

Archbishop’s brother, Tornike Mamaladze, who has been actively advocating for the release of his brother for years said that the Patriarch Ilia II himself asked the president to refuse his brother a pardon.

According to him, the Patriarch deceived the Holy Synod and the whole society and tried to evade taking responsibility.

“Of course, what Salome Zourabichvili said is not an independent decision. She had met with the Patriarch in the previous days…Ilia II himself asked the President personally to refuse the pardon request. Therefore, the decision made by the Holy Synod to send a motion to the President was a farce, the Catholicos-Patriarch deceived even the members of the Holy Synod, ridiculing every one of them,” Mamaladze said.

First Vice-Chair of the Parliament of Georgia and one of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream party Gia Volski said that Mamaladze is no different from any other inmates requesting a pardon from the President.

“Pardon, forgiveness is a recurring theme characterizing the church. The decision depends on the president but Giorgi Mamaladze is no different from any other inmates who also ask for pardon …Everything is related to political insinuations, everything is related to the fight against the Church, and this topic is of course always used in the political aspect, which is also not welcome. Giorgi Mamaladze is just like anyone else who expects to be pardoned,” said Volski.

Mamaladze’s attorney Giorgi Pantsulaia noted that it’s shameful that the President doesn’t know who the victim is in the said case even after 3 years.

“The President of Georgia should know at least three years after the incident that not the church, but Shorena Tetruashvili is recognized as a victim in this case. She accused the archbishop of attempting to kill the patriarch while the case was concluded by the courts of three instances and Shorena Tetruashvili was the victim,” said Mamaladze’s lawyer.

Local NGO, Human Rights and Monitoring Center (EMC) responded to the President’s decision, saying that her justification is unrelated to the concept and purposes of pardoning.

“No comments were made by the President about the cleric’s poor health and emotional state, the difficulties of serving his sentence in jail, and miscarriages of justice in the case,” said EMC.

Archbishop’s family, part of the clergy, Public Defender of Georgia, civic organizations and political groups have been requesting that Mamaladze be pardoned, due to his poor health, the difficulty of serving his sentence in prison and fundamental failures of carrying out justice in the case.

Mamaladze has been paralyzed for several months and has been deprived of the ability to move properly. Some medical experts speak openly about how complicated it is to deliver proper treatment while he serves the sentence.

President Zourabichvili decided to put a moratorium on pardoning before the parliament drafted changes to the pardon power last September after a massive outrage on her decision to pardon 35 people, including two people convicted of murder. The President initially explained that she acted within the discretionary powers, but later expressed a desire to reconsider the pardon procedure.