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Georgia Lawmakers Approve List of Political Prisoners and Exiles

Georgian lawmakers approved a draft law granting 215 people political prisoner or exile status, allowing them to seek retrial after being jailed under the last administration, led by U.S. ally Mikheil Saakashvili’s party.

Seventy-seven deputies in the 150-seat parliament in Kutaisi, the Black Sea nation’s second-largest city, voted in favor of the resolution, while 14 were against, according to parliament’s press office.

“This resolution doesn’t mean that they will be released immediately, there will be a long process on their cases since some of them committed crimes and political substance was added later,” Tina Khidasheli, a member of the ruling coalition, said by phone after the vote.

Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition won Oct. 1 parliamentary elections, defeating Saakashvili’s United National Movement and ending its nine-year rule. Ivanishvili promised to raise living standards, improve relations with Russia and to restore justice.

The resolution was drafted by Parliament’s Committee for Human Rights and contains a list people arrested and convicted for various criminal charges under the previous government. Deputies must now develop the legal framework for processing retrials, Khidasheli said.

Including on the list those convicted of spying for Russia is a “shameful” decision, UNM member Chiora Taktakishvili said by phone today.

Some people on the list were arrested during or after street protests in May 2011 and charged with an attempt “to stage armed provocations.”

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