Former mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, was detained early on Thursday morning in Tbilisi airport.
Before the arrest Ugulava, who is one of the UNM leaders and its election campaign chief, told journalists in the airport that he was on his way to Kiev and planned to return back to Tbilisi later on the same day, July 3, because he was summoned for questioning by the Finance Ministry’s investigations service for the morning of July 4.
Ugulava was handcuffed and transferred from the airport to the Finance Ministry’s investigations service and then to the Interior Ministry’s detention facility. Ugulava’s defense lawyers, who met him in a detention facility, said that no additional charges have yet been filed against their client.
New criminal charges were brought against Ugulava on June 30; he was charged without being arrested. On July 2 Tbilisi City Court turned down prosecution’s motion, which was seeking seizure of passport from ex-mayor of Tbilisi. The prosecution argued that Ugulava was intending to flee the country. Ugulava, who has traveled for number of times abroad and returned back to Georgia since he was first charged in February 2013, told the court on July 2 that he would rather “die than flee the country.”
The Tbilisi City Court said on July 2 that the prosecution failed to justify need for ordering any preventive measures against Ugulava including seizure of his passport. The court also said that there was no need to impose any measure against Ugulava as it saw no threat that he would flee or obstruct course of justice.
UNM said in a statement that the arrest of its campaign chief ahead of the second round runoffs of the local elections, including for the Tbilisi mayoral office, aims at “incapacitation of Georgia’s main opposition party.”
UNM also said that the arrest “marks deepening of the government’s agenda of political retribution and persecution of the opposition.” It said that Ugulava’s detention “is a personal decision of oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili [ex-prime minister] who remains main decision maker of the Georgian government despite not holding any formal office.”
Ugulava told journalists after he was handcuffed at the airport that he was arrested “because I have not bowed my head before Ivanishvili.”