Georgian Supreme Court’s decision to jail former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, secretary general of opposition European Georgia party, prompted assessments from foreign officials.
Adam Kinzinger, U. S. Congressman (R-IL) and co-chair of the House Georgia Caucus, was first to publicly denounce Ugulava’s incarceration. “To say this is disturbing would be an understatement,” Kinzinger noted, adding that “using courts as a weapon is NOT Democracy.”
Gigi Ugulava, leader of European Georgia, was arrested today and sentenced to 38 months in prison for an old crime he’s already served time over. To say this is disturbing would be an understatement. Using courts as a weapon is NOT democracy.
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) February 10, 2020
Kinzinger was followed by Senator Jim Risch, chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (R-ID), who expressed disappointment over “increase of politically motivated abuse” of opposition politicians in Georgia. “As I told the Georgian foreign minister last week, collapse of judicial independence and persecution of opposition is unacceptable behavior,” said Senator Risch.
I'm disappointed Georgia has chosen to increase its politically motivated abuse of opposition politicians. As I told the Georgian foreign minister last week, the collapse of judicial independence & persecution of the opposition is unacceptable behavior. https://t.co/jiY8cvdqXL
— U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SenateForeign) February 11, 2020
Concerns were raised by Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian Foreign Minister as well, who slammed the court decision to sentence Ugulava to 38-month imprisonment. Linkevičius further stressed that “upcoming parliamentary elections will be a litmus test for democracy in Georgia.”
Concerned by the court decision to sentence G. Ugulava, one of the leaders of European Georgia. The judiciary shouldn’t be used to persecute the opposition, which is a must for democratic societies. Upcoming parliamentary elections will be a litmus test for democracy in #Georgia.
— Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL) February 11, 2020
The top court of Georgia has found Gigi Ugulava guilty of embezzlement yesterday. The three-member chamber of the Supreme Court delivered the ruling with two votes in favor without oral hearing. Newly appointed Supreme Court justices, former Chief Prosecutor Shalva Tadumadze, and Merab Gabinashvili supported the ruling. Noteworthy that Tadumadze served as the Prosecutor General during the Ugulava’s case proceedings in the court of second instance.
This controversial decision led Georgian opposition parties to quit electoral reform talks with the ruling georgian Dream party and to call for large-scale protests throughout Georgia.