The Constitutional Court ruled on May 23 that provisions of criminal procedure code, based on which one of the leaders of UNM opposition party, Gigi Ugulava, was suspended from Tbilisi mayor’s post by the court in December are unconstitutional.
Although the ruling does not imply reinstatement of Ugulava on the capital city’s mayoral office, his lawyers say, it will allow them to appeal the court with a request to overrule Tbilisi City Court’s decision through which Ugulava was suspended. Even if the appeal is successful, Ugulava’s term in office will expire after the new mayor is elected in the June 15 local elections. Ugulava, who does not run in the upcoming election, says that his appeal will not be about regaining the post, but “about the principles.”
After Ugulava was charged with alleged misspending of GEL 48.18 million of public funds in 2011-2012, prosecutor’s office filed in late December, 2013 two separate motions to the Tbilisi City Court; in one of them prosecutors were requesting for Ugulava’s pre-trial detention and in another – his suspension from the mayoral office pending final verdict into the charges against him.
The Tbilisi City Court declined the motion requesting for pre-trial detention, but ruled positive on another one and suspended Ugulava from the office; this latter decision was taken by the judge without hearing oral arguments of the parties.
Ugulava took the case to the Constitutional Court, challenging both the decision itself and the way how it was taken by the judge without oral hearing of arguments.
On May 23 the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of both of these appeals and said that suspending of a directly elected official “implies termination or suspension of people’s mandate and represents one of the most brazen interference in autonomy of the self-governance”; the Constitutional Court also pointed out that the existing clause in the legislation wrongfully allows to suspend directly elected official for an indefinite period of time.
Ugulava welcomed the ruling and said that it sets an important precedent, which will defend directly elected mayors or heads of municipalities (gamgebeli) from, as he put it, arbitrary dismissals upon prosecutors’ request.