The Tbilisi City Court ruled to suspend directly elected mayor of the capital city, Gigi Ugulava, from office after he was charged with misspending of GEL 48.18 million of public funds.
Prosecution’s motion seeking for Ugulava’s pre-trial detention was rejected by the Tbilisi City Court late on Saturday night; the court instead ordered GEL 50,000 bail.
But few hours after that, prosecution’s separate motion seeking for suspending Ugulava from his mayoral office was considered by the judge without hearing oral arguments of the parties.
Ugulava, who is among UNM opposition party leadership, said late on Saturday before court’s decision on second motion was announced, that addition charges against him and attempts to push him out of the mayoral office was part of government’s pressure on the opposition, especially ahead of the local elections next year in which Ugulava plans to seek re-election as Tbilisi mayor.
In a written statement after he was suspended, Ugulava said: “It has been confirmed once again that legal proceedings against me are purely of political nature.”
“The court has been dragged into the political process and the mayor, elected by 55% of Tbilisites, has been sacked without any argument,” Ugulava said. “There is no other constitutional mechanism, except of election, to dismiss a directly elected mayor.”
UNM has condemned court’s decision to suspend from office directly elected mayor of the capital city.
UNM MP Giorgi Vashadze said on Sunday the ruling shows the leadership of the Tbilisi City Court is under the government’s control. He said its part of government’s “all-out attack” on the opposition. He also said that the party is now considering appealing court’s ruling to the Constitutional Court.
Charges, which were filed against Ugulava on December 18, involve allegations that he was behind a scheme through which GEL 48.18 million of municipal funds were funneled to cover UNM party’s various expenses in 2011-2012.
Ugulava is already standing trial into similar, but unrelated charges, which were filed against him in February 2013. At the time prosecution was asking the court GEL 1 bail and suspending Ugulava from the office – both of these motions were declined by the court.