MP from the opposition Republican Party Valerie Gelashvili said on March 18 that he will sue Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava for libel after Ugulava accused Gelashvili’s construction company Evra of masterminding deliberate fire in one of the Tbilisi’s schools.
MP Gelashvili said he was expected “certain provocations” from the authorities, in particular from Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili to whom Tbilisi Mayor is a close ally.
“I will meet Ugulava in the court,” MP Gelashvili said.
Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava said that construction firm Evra, owned by MP Valeri Gelashvili of the opposition Republican Party, could have been behind fire, which destroyed schools number 84 in the Avlabari district of Tbilisi on March 18. Ugulava said that the contraction company wanted to obtain the territory where the school was obtained.
“In a letter sent to the Education Ministry, the Evra company requests to hand over the school’s territory and in exchange offered to built a new school in other part [of Tbilisi],” Gigi Ugulava told Rustavi 2 television on March 18.
But at a news conference, convened by the leaders of the Republican Party following these allegations, MP Gelashvili presented the letter sent to the Education Ministry, which says that the Evra company was ready to construct a new school on the same territory, or in anther location. The school is located to the adjacent area where the Evra company carries out construction of new buildings and Evra explained that an old school would have maimed an entire landscape after the new buildings were built in the area.
“It is illogic that MP Gelashvili, who hardly survived after the attack by eight armed men [in July 2005] now commits a crime and burns the building in order to receive it,” MP Davit Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party, said at a news conference.
The Evra construction firm had a financial dispute with the authorities over construction of the Presidential Residence in Tbilisi. Following an open confrontation with the governmental officials, MP Gelashvili was attacked last July and brutally beaten by unknown armed men. The opposition accused authorities of this attack and criticized for many times the Interior Ministry for a failure to investigate this daytime attack against the MP, which occurred in downtown Tbilisi.
MP Berdzenishvili also said that recent allegations by the authorities are part of a smear campaign against the opposition in order to repel attacks over a high-profile murder scandal.
“We should consider this in a wider context. Today [Interior Minister Vano] Merabishvili said that the opposition struggles against him because he is fighting against crime. Meanwhile Ugulava accuses the opposition MP of setting fire at the school... After the authorities rejected dialogue with the society and with the political parties, naturally they try to fabricate cases instead of investigating attack against MP Gelashvili or Sandro Girgvliani’s murder case,” MP Berdzenishvili said.