Former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava released from pre-trial detention

Ex-Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugilava spent 14 months in pre-trial detention. Photo by Juda Psuturi., 18 Sep 2015 - 11:55, Tbilisi,Georgia

The former Mayor of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, has been released after spending 14 months in pre-trial detention.

Ugulava is one of the leading figures of United National Movement (UNM) political party, who is facing several charges for corruption, money laundering and illegal seizure of property.

Tbilisi City Court was obligated to release Ugulava, according to the law stated in the Constitutional Court of Georgia, which declared that keeping an arrested individual in pre-trial detention for more than nine months was unlawful. 

The issue was discussed in the Constitutional Court, after Ugulava’s lawyers addressed the Court in April and appealed why their client remained in pre-trial detention for more than nine months.

Generally speaking the law stated the term of pre-trial detention imposed on an accused individual should not exceed nine months. However criminal procedures permit a person to be detained beyond the nine-month limit if new charges are filed against the same person. 

Last year an investigation revealed Ugulava was involved in several instances of corruption, money laundering and illegal seizure of property.

After his release yesterday afternoon the former official made a political statement, stressing that UNM would win next year’s Parliamentary elections.

In July 2014 the former official was sentenced to pre-trial detention. When the nine-month pre-trial detention period expired, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office requalified one of his charges and through the decision of Tbilisi City Court, Ugulava remained in custody. 

In April 2015, nine months after the initial pre-trial detention sentence was imposed, Ugulava’s lawyers protested the prolonged detention period to the Constitutional Court. 

On Wednesday this week the Constitutional Court upheld one of the lawyers’ demands but rejected the second part of the lawsuit brought forward by Ugulava’s lawyers, which stated the danger of the ex-Mayor committing new crimes should not be grounds to keep him in detention.

When the Constitutional Court announced its verdict Ugulava’s lawyers and UNM members demanded the immediate release of the former official.  

After the verdict Georgia’s Ministry of Corrections emphasised the Constitutional Court made its decision based on law and not about the individual involved, and addressed UNM members and supporters to stop making political, "unfounded” statements about  the case. 

Some of Georgia’s leading non-governmental organisations Transparency International Georgia (TI), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Open Society Georgia (OSG) and four others shared the Ministry’s position about the legal norm.

Meanwhile Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili held a special briefing yesterday and stressed the verdict of the Constitutional Court must be fulfilled. 

Ugulava back in court today

Despite the fact Ugulava was released from pre-trial detention, the ex-official must appear at Tbilisi City Court today, as trials relating to the charges against him - for corruption, money laundering and illegal seizure of property – are ongoing.

The first charges against Ugulava date back to 2013 when he was still Tbilisi Mayor. The charge concerned two separate cases of alleged misspending and embezzlement of a large amount of public funds and money laundering.

In December 2013 additional charges were filed against the former official that involved alleged misspending of 48.18 million GEL of budget money in 2011-2012.

Charges related to alleged money laundering when Ugulava led the UNM campaign in 2014 were filed against him in July 2014 and through a court order he was sentenced to pre-trial detention. 

Ugulava was still in pre-trial detention in July 2014 when the Chief Prosecutor’s office filed a new set of charges against him, involving exceeding of official power in connection of dispersal of the November 7, 2007 anti-government protests, as well as the raid on and seizure of Imedi TV station and property owned at the time by late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili.