Commenting on pre-trial detention of one of the leaders of the opposition UNM party and its election campaign chief Gigi Ugulava, U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said this “is a serious matter for Georgia” and the U.Ss is following the case closely.
“We remain focused on principles and due process,” he said on July 5. “Our concern is heightened due to the fact that Georgia is in a pre-election environment, prior to the July 12 run-off elections. It is more important than ever that legal proceedings observe the highest standards of due process and be free of any type of political interference.”
“The U.S. understands there may be an appeal of the pre-trial detention, and we will be watching that closely,” he said.
“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 rule of law,” the U.S. ambassador added.
Several people were detained by the police in chaotic scenes and scuffles outside the court building where UNM supporters and activists were rallying. Angered by the court’s decision, some of the demonstrators shouted insults at prosecutors as they emerged from the court building escorted by the police after the hearing, which was then followed by scuffles with the police. Among those detained were UNM lawmaker Levan Bezhashvili, who was dragged into police car, and former ambassador to Italy and ex-lawmaker Kote Gabashvili. MP Bezhashvili was released about three hours later. Eight detained men were charged with administrative offense of petty hooliganism and disobeying police orders, which they deny; Tbilisi City Court is hearing these cases on Saturday.