Court in town of Rustavi ordered on June 30 to send four senior officials from the Tbilisi municipality, facing charges into the case of alleged misspending and embezzlement of GEL 48.9 million of public money, to pretrial detention.
Deputy mayor of Tbilisi Davit Alavidze; head of the Tbilisi Development Fund Davit Avaliani; head of the procurement service in the Tbilisi City Hall Alexi Tabuashvili and deputy head of capital city's Mtatsminda district Dimitri Chkheidze were detained on the morning of June 27 along with 19 officials from the capital city's municipality; although then they all were released without being charged, later on the same day these four officials were again arrested.
Something similar, in a sense of releasing and then detaining, played out in Rustavi court as the judge ruled positively on motions from both the defense lawyers and the prosecution.
At first the judge ruled positively on defense lawyers' motion that the four officials were arrested in violation of norms stipulated by the criminal code of procedure; as a result the judge ordered all four men to be immediately released. Courtroom, packed by supporters of the accused men, erupted in applause after the judge announced her decision.
But in a separate decision later on the same day the same judge ruled positively on prosecution's motion and ordered pretrial detention for the four Tbilisi city officials.
Although all four officials were detained in Tbilisi, hearing on prosecution's motion for applying detention as a measure of restraint was referred to the court in Rustavi, town close to Tbilisi.
The decision triggered complaints by detainees and their supporters from UNM, including Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, who were present at the court hearing. They suggested that the case was sent to Rustavi because it was easier for investigators to, as they said, influence court in Rustavi then in the capital city. The Finance Ministry's investigations service, which is carrying out probe into the case, said that it decided to refer the case to investigators in Rustavi after the accused four officials expressed distrust towards investigators in Tbilisi; defense lawyers of the officials said that their clients had no confidence in impartiality of the probe carried out by the Finance Ministry's investigations service.
The court in Rustavi has also ordered pretrial detention in absentia for a former head of the Tbilisi Development Fund, Giorgi Sabanadze, who is also charged into the same case; according to investigators Sabanadze, who has left the country, is at large.