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29 Mar, 2013 12:50

Georgia lifts photographers’ Saakashvili-era espionage sentence

Georgia lifts photographers’ Saakashvili-era espionage sentence

Georgian authorities have lifted the 2011 sentence for four photographers convicted of spying for Russia.

Sozar Subari, the Minister for Execution of Punishment, Probation and Legal Aid, explained at a press conference that President Mikhail Saakashvili was personally responsible for this unjust conviction. “We will need a lot of time to correct all crimes committed by Saakashvili’s regime. They will for long remain the pain and shame for our nation,” the Georgia News agency quoted the minister as saying.

The so called ‘photographers’ case’ took place in Summer 2011, when Georgian security detained Zurab Kurtsikidze of the EPA agency, presidential pool journalist Irakliy Gedenidze and his wife  Natalya, and Georgiy Abaladze of the Foreign Ministry. The four were charged with spying for Russia and put on trial. The suspects initially pleaded not guilty, but later agreed to a plea bargain and received suspended sentences in a speedy trial.

In 2012, Mikhail Saakashvili’s party lost the parliamentary elections, and the president was deprived of most of his political influence. In January 2013, the new government announced amnesty for about 3,000 political prisoners, including a number of those sentenced for espionage. Saakashvili tried to veto the amnesty bill, but was overruled by parliament.

In February, the photographers addressed the country’s Prosecutor General with a request to declassify their case and send it for a re-trial. The sentence has now been lifted completely, and the four have had their criminal history cleared..