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    Georgian president pardons 1,280 prisoners

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    TBILISI, December 17 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has pardoned 1,280 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill on a national religious holiday, a presidential administration spokesman said on Wednesday.

    "The president signed an amnesty order on Wednesday morning. The list of those recommended for amnesty was submitted by the patriarchate and the Justice Ministry," the spokesman said.

    All the pardoned prisoners will be released by the end of Wednesday, when Georgia celebrates St. Barbara's Day (Barbaroba).

    According to the spokesman, the president is planning to sign another order to pardon more prisoners before New Year's Eve.

    The country's parliament approved the amnesty on November 21 for offenders serving sentences for minor crimes. The amnesty is expected to affect some 12,000 prisoners in total, around 2,000 of whom will be released early and the remainder will have their terms reduced.

    In late November, Saakashvili also signed an order to pardon or reduce terms for 365 prisoners.

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