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Constitutional Court: more than nine-month pre-trial detention is unlawful

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 18
The Constitutional Court of Georgia has partially met the demand of Tbilisi's former Mayor, Gigi Ugulava, and decided that keeping an inmate in prison in excess of the nine-month pre-trial period without a verdict in court is in violation of the law.

Ugulava, who has been in prison since July 2014, faces several charges related to money laundering and the illegal seizure of property.

Since his nine-month pre-trial detention period expired, the Chief-Prosecutor’s Office re-qualified one of his charges and the court left Ugulava in prison.

The solution was appealed by Ugulava’s lawyers to the Constitutional Court. Eight judges out of a total of nine decided that keeping an inmate in prison after the nine-month pre-trial detention period is unlawful.

Ugulava’s lawyers and the members of the opposition United National Movement (UNM) gathered in the #9 prison in Tbilisi on the night of September 19 and demanded an immediate release of the former official.

They stressed that any minute spent in prison after court’s declaration constituted illegal imprisonment.

However, Georgia’s penitentiary system leadership stressed that the Constitutional Court made a solution concerning a special norm and not in terms of a definite individual.

It was explained that all the people who are facing more than nine-month pre-trial detention might become the subject of release.

“However, a solution concerning certain individuals should be made by the court that sentenced the individual to pre-trial detention. The detainee’s lawyers can address the court with the demand,” the Ministry of Corrections stated.

The same statement was made by the member of the Georgian Dream coalition Eka Beselia, who said that the United National Movement was making political statements that have nothing in common with the legislative norms.

From this moment, Gigi Ugulava is a political prisoner, Ugulava’s lawyer Beka Basilaia said when commenting on the decision of the Constitutional Court.

According to him, the Ministry of Corrections and the Penitentiary Department are obliged to immediately enforce the decision of the Constitutional Court.

"Of course, we expected that Gigi Ugulava’s suit would be satisfied, since our claim was fully grounded. It is not only Giorgi Ugulava’s victory. This is the most important decision for all citizens of Georgia.

“Today the Constitutional Court said that imprisonment of a person for more than 9 months without the guilty verdict is unconstitutional," Beka Basilaia stated.