The District Court of Gurjaani has sentenced Davit Kirkitadze, one of the leaders of the opposition United National Movement party, to pretrial custody.
Kirkitadze is accused of assaulting a police officer during the Velistsikhe incident on December 16, when several hundred opposition activists confronted police officers blocking their way to the inauguration venue in Telavi.
A group of 27 opposition lawmakers offered their personal guarantee for Kirkitadze’s release, but the judge accepted the prosecution’s motion and sent the politician to pretrial detention.
Leaders of the United Opposition, a coalition led by the United National Movement, condemned the court ruling as “unfair,” calling Kirkitadze “a political prisoner.”
The opposition supporters gathered outside the court building from early morning amid heavy police presence.
Nika Melia, one of the leaders of the United Opposition, said: “Davit Kirkitadze was arrested and sent to prison only because he is a successful politician; he defeated Salome Zurabishvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili twice in Rustavi.”
“Kirkitadze is a classic example of a political prisoner,” Melia added.
Grigol Vashadze, another leader of the United Opposition, said “Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government treats all the opposition-minded individuals as threats.”
Gigi Ugulava of the European Georgia party, who was in Gurjaani today, stressed that “freedom of expression by political opponents is being suppressed in the country.”
“Today, Bidzina Ivanishvili has declared half of the population as second-class citizens, who can be insulted and punished through disrespectful use of law,” Ugulava noted.
Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili dismissed the allegations, saying there were “concrete grounds” for imprisoning Kirkitadze. “I do not think allegations on selective justice are substantiated… the police is politically neutral; we treat everyone equally, regardless of who commits crime.”
Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze commented on the matter as well, saying it is “unacceptable” that insults on police officers have intensified in recent days, and that there had to be a legal response to this “negative trend.”
According to Kirkitadze’s defense lawyer, Giorgi Kondakhishvili, the decision will be challenged in the appellate court. Preliminary court hearing is scheduled to take place on February 12, 2019.