Opposition demands TV channel co-founder Rurua’s release, announces rally in June

Recently pardoned opposition leaders Gigi Ugulava (L) and Irakli Okruashvili (R) attended today's meeting of the united opposition. Photo: RFE/RL.

Agenda.ge, 18 May 2020 - 18:21, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian opposition parties have released a joint statement earlier today expressing hope that the co-founder of opposition-minded TV channel Mtavari Arkhi will be released soon, ‘like the recently pardoned opposition leaders Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili.’ 

The release of these individuals, the opposition says, was a demand they made when the March 8 election agreement was struck. 

Opposition leaders also said that to commemorate the June 2019 protests in Tbilisi, a rally will be held on June 20 in the capital, taking the epidemiological situation in account.

We hope that Giorgi Rurua will be released soon and then the parliament will pass the constitutional changes,” said the statement. 

Rurua, who is charged with illegal possession and carrying of a firearm, was denied bail earlier today. 

In the statement the opposition also says that ‘after the defeat’ of the current Georgian Dream government in the upcoming elections, ‘the coalition government will take steps ‘to stop the economic crisis, ensure the court’s freedom and the absence of political prisoners in the country.’

Rurua does not admit to the crime. Photo: IPN.

The opposition says that they will continue discussions to present joint majoritarian candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. 

Recently pardoned opposition leaders Gigi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili have stated that they are likely to be the united opposition’s majoritarian candidates in Tbilisi. 

During the June protests in Tbilisi last year, which were triggered by the presence of Russian MPs in the Georgian parliament, the ruling party promised protesters to hold the 2020 parliamentary elections with a fully proportional electoral system. 

According to the changes adopted under the Georgian Dream leadership the country was to have moved to a fully proportional electoral system starting 2024. 

However, in November 2019, several ruling party majoritarian MPs refused to vote for the early transition to the system and the bill, proposed by the ruling party itself, was rejected, which in turn led to a political crisis. 

Thanks to the election talks mediated by the diplomatic corps, the ruling party and the opposition agreed to hold the 2020 elections under revised conditions which included a significant decrease of the number of majoritarian seats.

However, the opposition claimed that the ruling party also ‘promised the release’ of opposition leaders Gigi Ugulava , Irakli Okriashvili and shareholder of Mtavari Arkhi Giorgi Rurua. 

Ruling parry says that Okruashvili and Ugulava committed crimes and they should be held accountable. 

The ruling party says that no such promise was made as it would be ‘unacceptable and undemocratic.’

On May 15 President Salome Zurabishvili pardoned Ugulava and Okruashvili as she said to ‘discharge the situation.’ 

The ruling party has called Ugulava and Okruashvili ‘criminals and budget thieves’ and stated that there was no need for the president to pardon them. 

The opposition is trying to find reasons not to vote for the constructional amendments," ruling party MP Gia Volski stated earlier today.

They ruling party officials and MPs say that the government has never interfered in the court's issues. 

Former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, who is currently an opposition European Georgia member, was sentenced to three years and two months in prison for the embezzlement of 48 million GEL from the Tbilisi Municipal Development Fund while in office.

Former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who currently chairs the opposition party For a Victorious Georgia, was earlier sentenced to five years in prison for participating in group violence during the June 20 rally in front of the parliament of Georgia last year.