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Georgia Jails Prominent Opposition Leader

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The Supreme Court of Georgia has found Gigi Ugulava, one of the leaders of opposition European Georgia party, guilty of misspending GEL 48 million of public money from Tbilisi Development Fund, while serving as the mayor of the capital city, and sentenced him to three years and two months in jail.

The three-member chamber of the Supreme Court, consisting of former Chief Prosecutor and now Supreme Court judge Shalva Tadumadze, Giorgi Shavliashvili and Merab Gabinashvili deliberated on the case without oral hearing, depriving the parties of an opportunity to voice their arguments.

Gigi Ugulava has been charged under paragraphs 2 and 3 of the article 182 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving appropriation and embezzlement using the official position by an organized group.

Ugulava was sentenced to one year and three months in prison in connection with the same case in February 2018, but under the principle of concurrent sentencing, the sentence was absorbed by graver penalty delivered by the Court of Appeals in January 2017, and Ugulava’s sentence was considered served.

Commenting on the court ruling, Gigi Ugulava’s defense lawyer, Beka Basilaia said that Georgian Dream leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili fulfilled his main task to remove Ugulava from political arena through sending him to jail.

“No matter what decisions will be made on other cases, all of them will be politically motivated… Final decisions are made in the glass palace [referring to Ivanishvili’s hilltop residence on the Sololaki Ridge near downtown Tbilisi – Civil.ge] and not here, in court rooms,” he said.

Gigi Ugulava also commented on the matter, slamming the Supreme Court’s decision as “unfair” and “politically motivated.” “This decision was made personally by Ivanishvili and the judges simply fulfilled it,” Ugulava said.

“The fact is that the path chosen by opposition frightens Ivanishvili; the unity that we have here is the precondition for our victory… If the road towards freedom passes through prison, I am ready to go to prison again,” he noted, adding that he does not plead guilty and will serve his sentence because “in Georgia, ruled by Ivanishvili, prison is the place, where a person can find freedom and I will definitely find this freedom.”

Gigi Ugulava returned to political life after his released from prison on January 6, 2017. He soon joined European Georgia party as the Secretary General following its split from the United National Movement. In 2018, Ugulava ran as a majoritarian MP in by-elections in Vani and Khoni single-mandate constituency, finishing the second with 38.38% of the votes (Georgian Dream’s Givi Chichinadze secured the first place with 57.86%).

Ugulava was actively involved in Tbilisi protest rallies of June 2019, sparked by Russian communist MP Sergei Gavrilov’s visit to Georgia. Former mayor of Tbilisi was also among the leaders of street protests in November-December following Georgian Parliament’s failure to pass constitutional amendments over transitioning to fully proportional system from 2020.

In December 2019, Tbilisi City Court imposed 2000 GEL bail and restricted foreign travel to Ugulava, following an incident at the Tbilisi International Airport. Ugulava then claimed that ruling Georgian Dream party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili “is engaged in total combat for preserving his power” and that this “show was staged” to prevent him from international travels.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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