The ex-mayor of Tbilisi, one of the leaders of the opposition party United National Movement (UNM), Gigi Ugulava, was released from prison on January 6. Tbilisi Court of Appeal shortened his sentence to 1 year, 3 months and 22 days. Since the detention counts from September 18, 2015, he has served his term.
Gigi Ugulava was sentenced after being found guilty of misusing public funds while serving as the mayor of the capital city. The prosecution claimed that Ugulava misspent public funds by creating over 700 fictitious job positions in the capital city’s municipal service and used the cash for paying salaries of UNM party activists.
Ugulava regularly denied guilt and called the charge politically motivated.
On the doorstep to the prison building, Ugulava called on the government to release other political prisoners.
“If my resignation is the beginning of a process, it’s right. I wish everyone to realize that as long as we have political prisoners in the country, [the political climate] will be extremely radical,” he said.
Ugulava was one of dozens of senior figures, including a former prime minister, arrested on charges that included fraud and abuse of office after the UNM-led government lost the election in Oct. 2012.
Mikheil Saakashvili, ex-president of Georgia, who now is in the opposition in Ukraine, welcomed Ugulava’s release on his Facebook page:
“Gigi has not committed any crime, nor has he done any incorrect acts …Therefore, this imprisonment was nothing but the oligarch’s personal revenge and part of an intimidation campaign”, – Wrote Saakashvili. Mikheil Saakashvili is wanted in Georgia for various charges, which he denies as politically motivated.
Last night the US Embassy released a statement regarding Ugulava’s release:
“We are closely watching the progress of former Mayor Gigi Ugulava’s case. The right to appeal a decision is an important part of any democratic judicial system. The Court of Appeals assessed the evidence and enabled the parties to present their legal arguments.”
While Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office promised to appeal the decision, Gigi Ugulava declared today that he is completely ready to get involved in the ongoing political process and to serve the country.