President Zurabishvili refuses to pardon convicted TV channel co-founder Rurua

  • President Salome Zurabishvili has refused to pardon Rurua, sentenced by Tbilisi City Court on Thursday. Photo via president's social media page on Facebook., 1 Aug 2020 - 14:05, Tbilisi,Georgia

President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili has refused to pardon Giorgi Rurua, co-founder of TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, who was convicted of illegal possession of firearms by Tbilisi City Court on Thursday.

Zurabishvili said in a statement from the Orbeliani Presidential Palace on Friday her decision not to pardon Rurua - with opposition parties alleging "political grounds" for Rurua's imprisonment - could not be affected.

In her statement the president also said she had made the decision to pardon opposition politicians Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili in May this year for interests of "stability" in the country but noted she would not make the same move in relation to Rurua.

I will not pardon this individual. The Georgian public knows everything about him better than I do, and it knows why I will not make a decision to pardon him. It also knows that no-one and nothing can affect my decision," Zurabishvili said.

In contrast to the opposition's claims of a politically motivated case against Mtavari Arkhi founder, Zurabishvili denied existence of political prisoners in Georgia and stressed it was "of utmost importance for everyone to start preparing for the elections" for the Georgian parliament in October.

Kelly Degnan, Ambassador of the United States to Georgia, told reporters it was Zurabishvili's prerogative whether she would pardon Rurua and said she hoped the judge on the case had been able to independently make his decision.

In her comments Degnan also stressed the importance of an independent judiciary for Georgia for ensuring trust in the system from citizens, ongoing investment from abroad and democratic progress for the society.

Rurua was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday, with his lawyer telling the media "we were expecting an unfair verdict" and adding his client would appeal the court’s decision.

The arrest and charging of Rurua has become a point of contention between the government and the opposition, with the latter alleging a release of the Mtavari Arkhi co-founder had been part of the March 8 agreement between the two sides - mediated by foreign diplomatic corps - on an arrangement between proportional and majoritarian systems in the upcoming elections. The government denied an agreement on his release had been part of the deal.