Court of Appeals in Tbilisi has rejected an appeal from one of UNM leaders Gigi Ugulava over his pre-trial detention as inadmissible, according to Ugulava's defense lawyer.
Tbilisi City Court accepted prosecution’s motion and ordered Ugulava’s pre-trial detention on July 4, which was appealed to higher court by his defense lawyers.
But judge of Appeals Court, Giorgi Mirotadze, ruled on July 8 that the appeal was inadmissible to be heard on its merit, meaning that Ugulava, who is UNM’s chief of campaign for local elections, will remain in detention pending trial. Nine months is maximum length of pre-trial detention in Georgia.
“Such a decision was unexpected for us,” defense lawyer, Gizo Uglava, said, adding that the judge has yet to provide justification of his decision.
The Court of Appeals said in a statement that application filed by the defense had “no justification” that the ruling delivered by the Tbilisi City Court was wrongful.
“Case files contain no piece of evidence, and neither the applicant provided any such evidence, that could have had influence in substance on the legitimacy of pre-trial detention ordered by the court of first instance,” the Court of Appeals said.
UNM has condemned decision of the Appeals Court as a “very serious threat and a step backwards for the Georgian state.”
“This is a decision, which will inevitably trigger a lots of negative question marks among our foreign partners; this is a decision, which will have a very negative impact on Georgian democracy and the future of the Georgian judiciary,” UNM parliamentary minority leader, MP Davit Bakradze, said.
“Regrettably, as it seems government’s favorite judges have already emerged within the judiciary, who are ready to take any decision favorable for the government,” he said.
MP Bakradze also said that Ugulava will take the case to Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.
“This [Court of Appeals’ decision] is bad for Georgia… because it will trigger serious question marks among our foreign partners, which may seriously hinder our path towards Europe,” MP Bakradze added.
Ugulava was arrested at the Tbilisi airport before boarding a flight to Kiev on the morning of July 3; Ugulava, who had a return ticket, said he was intending to return back for later the same day. A day earlier the court turned down prosecution’s request in connection to separate criminal charges to seize Ugulava’s passport to prevent him from traveling abroad. He has traveled abroad and returned back for number of times since first criminal charges were filed against him in February, 2013.
After the arrest, Ugulava was charged in connection to two separate cases – one involving allegations of money laundering and another one related to incident at the Marneuli District Election Commission that took place in early June. Ugulava is already standing trial in connection to number of other criminal charges, which he denies as politically motivated.
Prosecutors argued that Ugulava should be held in detention pending trial in order to prevent him from fleeing the country or from otherwise obstructing course of justice. Prosecutors also argued that money laundering incriminated against Ugulava was committed in February, 2014 at the time when he was already under bail in connection to separate unrelated charges.