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Former mayor sent to pre-trial detention

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 7
Former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava was sent to pre-trial detention according to the verdict announced by Judge Giorgi Goniashvili on July 4. The verdict was followed by unrest among United National Movement supporters who were angered by the court’s decision. Some of the demonstrators shouted insults at prosecutors as they emerged from the court building. Seven demonstrators, including MP levan Bezhashvili and Georgia’s former Ambassador to Italy Kote Gabashvili, were detained and later released after being fined GEL 100 each. The court found them guilty of administrative offenses involving petty hooliganism, but rejected police allegations that they were disobeying orders from law enforcement officers. The UNM stresses that the police violated the law and that UNM supporters did not break any laws.

On top of the money laundering charges, prosecutors also charged Ugulava in connection to an incident at the Marneuli District Election Commission that took place a month ago.

Ugulava denies the charges. The United National Movement claims that Ugulava’s detention has only a political basis and aims simply at destroying the main opposition party.

One of the leaders of the United National Movement, Davit Bakradze, stated that the government “once again demonstrated that it offers only confrontation and arrests. The government’s conclusion after the municipal elections it that the opposition hinders the government and it should be destroyed,” Bakradze said, noting that the officers of the State Security Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia were involved in the incident that occurred outside Tbilisi City Court and they should be punished..

“We have seen the celebration of justice. Our government's main achievement is that the court has become completely independent and free,” Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili responded.

“You know what is going on in Europe, the former President of France was arrested a few days ago and we declare that we want to enter Europe; we want European democracy and European standards. We are implementing these standards. No one is above the law - that is our main goal,” Graribashvili said, addressing the police to investigate the incident in front of the court in a timely manner and punish all individuals, no matter of partial possessions, who violated the law.

The majority members share the PM’s aspiration and state that if Ugulava committed crimes, he should answer for them.

Head of Georgia’s Central Election Commission Tamar Zhvania suggested that the current developments in terms of the detention and unrest, have a negative influence on the pre-election situation in the country.

United States Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland stated that Ugulava’s arrest was a serious matter for Georgia, and the United States was following the case closely.

“We remain focused on principles and due-process. Our concern is heightened due to the fact that Georgia is in a pre-election environment. We call on all sides to refrain from committing violence or provoking violence, and to promote a peaceful environment: it is especially important to reinforce respect for an independent judiciary and the rule of law,” Norland said.

The European Union has also responded to the arrest. According to the statement released by the organization, the Georgian government should ensure that the judicial process is fully independent, transparent, and free from political influence, in line with the commitments undertaken by Georgia when it signed the Association Agreement with the European Union last week.

Swedish Foreign minister Carl Bildt has admitted through Twitter that the arrest of Ugulava seems to run contrary to previous commitment to the rule of law.