MP Khidasheli: Ugulava’s detention was legal

"Moratorium has just expressed a political will and nothing else," Tinatin Khidasheli said., 06 Jul 2014 - 14:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

A Member of Georgian Parliament and member of ruling coalition believes the detainment of former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava has not violated a pre-election moratorium instigated by the Prime Minister of Georgia.

MP Tinatin Khidasheli, who is also the vice chairperson of the ALDE faction of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Ugulava’s detainment was lawful, despite the moratorium preventing legal proceedings against those involved in the 2014 municipal elections while the elections were happening.

"A moratorium is not a law and it is not obligatory. It just expresses a political will and nothing else," Khidasheli exclusively told

Meanwhile the European Union has called on Georgian authorities to "ensure the judicial process is fully independent, transparent, and free of political influence”.

The EU released a statement after Ugulava was arrested on Thursday morning.

"We note that Mr Ugulava, previously suspended as Mayor of Tbilisi, is the opposition's chief campaign organiser during the ongoing municipal elections in Georgia. We recall Prime Minister [Irakli] Garibashvili's announcement on 14 April of a moratorium on the arrest and prosecution of opposition figures during this election period,” read the EU statement.

Tbilisi City Court imposed pre-trial detention on the former Mayor 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.

In April Georgia’s Prime Minister has issued a moratorium on legal proceedings against those involved in election campaigns to help ensure a free and fair election. Prime Minister Garibahsvili called on the country’s law enforcement agencies not to detain or apply any other form of legal restrictions on activists or political figures involved in the upcoming local self-government election.

Khidasheli told the moratorium was not law and not obligatory but expressed political will and nothing else.

She said the detention of Ugulava would not be considered as a violation of this rule, as when Garibashvili announced the moratorium, he said detention should only be used as a last resort and "only in cases when the need is clearly justified, urgent and necessary".

"As the Court decided, this was that kind of special case,” Khidasheli said.

She said Ugulava’s attempt to leave Georgia on Thursday arose possible suspicion that he intended to flee the country.

"With Ugulava leaving the country in the period when the moratorium was approaching its end, reasonable suspicions arose that he would not return in anticipation of an imminent arrest,” she said.

"Considering the weighted and increased charges against him such expectations were quite logical.”

Ugulava was arrested early Thursday morning while boarding a flight to Kiev, Ukraine. Before he was handcuffed by law enforcement officers, he told journalists that he was planning to return back to Georgia later on the same day, July 3, as he had been summoned for questioning by the Finance Ministry’s investigative service on July 4.

In relation to Ugulava being accused of illegally accumulating money for his political party, 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.

After a five hour trial, Tbilisi City Court imposed pre-trial detention on the former Tbilisi Mayor on July 4, which was followed by a confrontation between Ugulava’s supporters and law enforcement agencies.

In particular, representatives of the prosecution were verbally attacked by supporters of the former Mayor, who also attempted to cause damage to nearby vehicles. As a result several people were arrested including United National Movement (UNM) member Levan Bejashvili who is also the Member of Georgian Parliament.

UNM members and the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) said Bejashvili’s arrest was "illegal”.

However Khidasheli said the arrest of his UNM colleage was legal since the clashes happened and the "recognition rate” was not so high to demand any policeman to recognise him.

"After he was brought to the police office and he stated he was an MP, when this was confirmed her was released immediately,” Khidasheli explained.

"This is an important detail - that he was arrested along with other citizens, as a citizen and not as an MP.”

Before the trial regarding the people arrested during the confrontation, Bejashvili told journalists he would present evidence that he had bee illegally detained.

Meanwhile a final decision on Bejashvili’s case will be made by the Court on July 7.

Parliament of Georgia has sent a special request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to find out all details regarding Bejashvili’s detainment.