Activists clash, 8 arrested after ex-Mayor's court appearance

Prosecutor: “Other people should also be detained on Khurcha case.”, 05 Jul 2014 - 11:48, Tbilisi,Georgia

Tbilisi City Court has imposed pre-trial detention on former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava for organising group violence and coercion in Marneuli district during the June 15 local elections, which violated public order, Georgian authorities said. He is also facing charges of illegally accumulating money for his political party.

His trial lasted for five hours yesterday and was followed by a confrontation between Ugulava supporters and law enforcement agencies, which resulted in the several people being arrested, including United National Movement (UNM) members.

On June 5 UNM leaders including Ugulava verbally insulted the head of the Regional Election Commission in Marneuli and demanded an explanation whether UNM candidate Akmamed Imamkuliev would be removed from the election list. Ugulava accused the Central Election Commission (CEC) representative of having an approach that was "favourable to the Government”.

More recently, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion with Tbilisi City Court requesting Ugulava face pre-trial detention after his arrest on Thursday morning. Ugulava was detained as he attempted to board a flight to Kiev, Ukraine.

Before he was handcuffed and arrested, he told journalists he was planning to return back to Georgia later the same day, July 3, as he had been summoned for questioning by the Finance Ministry’s investigative service on July 4.

As for the second charge, legal authorities claimed Ugulava had allegedly received "black money” from an offshore registered company affiliated to ex-Defence Minister David Kezerashvili, who is wanted by Georgian authorities for a number of different charges.

Those involved in the alleged crime include Ugulava’s brother-in-law, former director of the Georgian Lottery Company Giorgi Ghoniashvili and Kezerashvili’s business partner Alexandre Gogokhia.

When Ugulava was issued with pre-trial detention, people in the Court verbally insulted each other and clashed in the courtyard in the late evening.

Representatives of the prosecution were verbally attacked by supporters of the former Mayor. The attackers also attempted to cause damage to nearby vehicles.

The verbal insults escalated into a physical altercation and several people were arrested including UNM member Kote Gabashvili and Levan Bejashvili, who is also member of Georgian Parliament.

Some activists of the Free Zone opposition movement were also arrested. In total eight people were arrested, five of which were charged under Article 166 and 173 of the Administrative Code for minor hooliganism and resisting police.

MP Bejashvili was released a few hours after he was detained. He said he was questioned for three hours by officials but when they realised he was an MP, they released him as he had immunity.

"I will present evidence on today’s trial that I was illegally detained and we hope the Court will take it into consideration,” Bejashvili stated. 

Final decision on his case will be taken by the court on July 7 while another UNM member was charged with 100 Gel (55 USD) fine like other people arrested.

Georgian Dream MP Tina Khidasheli said the events developed legally yesterday.

"Georgian citizens who violated public order and caused problems were moved to the law enforcement unit and when they found out that Levan Bejashvili was an MP they immediately released him,” Khidasheli explained, adding the policemen are not obliged to recognise all MPs by face.

She also stressed that the current circumstance would not cause problems for the continuing electoral process or the country’s democratic development.

Meanwhile, Parliament of Georgia sent a special request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to find out all the circumstances regarding the detainment of Bejashvili.