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Former Tbilisi Mayor to remain in custody

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Wednesday, March 18
The Tbilisi City Court has sentenced former Mayor Giorgi Ugulava to imprisonment as a measure of his detention.

Ugulava, who did not attend the court discussion as a sign of protest, was charged with the restriction of freedom of speech and expression, monopolization of the mass media, misappropriation of IMEDI TV and radio, and Mtatsminda Amusement Park owned by late tycoon Arkadi Patarkatsishvili.

The Prosecutor’s Office stressed that there were certain risks in the case of Ugulava’s release, such as the threat of him absconding and of him failing to appear before the court, the threat of influencing witnesses and destroying information significant to the case, as well as the threat of him committing a new crime.

Member of the United National Movement (UNM) Goka Gabashvili called Ugulava’s detention political persecution.

Gabashvili accused the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of pursuing the former officials, Ugulava among them. He underscored that the government would answer for its illegal activities following the opposition rally on March 21.

“Ugulava’s detention was a political decision and his release will also come after the new political process,” he said.

Executive Director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy Nino Lomjaria, stated that the decision made by the court opposes the provisions of the constitution and human rights.

"We plan to release a statement regarding this issue. Ugulava has already completed his nine-month pre-trial detention. If the court and the Prosecutor’s Office use the approach of new charges, one might spend his whole life in prison,” Lomjaria said.

Initially Ugulava was arrested at Tbilisi airport on July 3 when he was trying to leave for Kiev. Tbilisi City Court sent Ugulava into custody on July 4. He has been charged with money laundering and the Marneuli election case. He has denied these charges, stressing that the Georgian Dream government was politically persecuting him.