18 July 2024,   06:54
NGOs respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Gigi Ugulava’s case

NGOs responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Gigi Ugulava, who was found guilty of misspending GEL 48 mln of public money from Tbilisi Development Fund. They issued a joint statement, saying that this ruling is a continuation of political persecution by the Government against its the opponents.

“There were significant violations in the case and it gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that the prosecution was politically motivated and its sole purpose was to distance the opposition leader from the political process. Before the 2014 local elections, Gigi Ugulava, while he was head of the opposition party’s election headquarters, was arrested and detained for more than 9 months without proper cause and in violation of the constitution. It is noteworthy that two of the judges of the Supreme Court, who brought the final verdict, have been recently elected by the authorities through untransparent process. One of them is Shalva Tadumadze, a former personal lawyer of the informal ruler of the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Parliamentary Secretary of the Government of Georgia and Prosecutor General. Obviously, his involvement is problematical and causes distrust towards the verdict.

In the light of the investigation, launched against Gigi Ugulava 7 years ago, as well as the criminal prosecution against several opposition leaders, including Irakli Okruashvili, Nika Melia and Mamuka Khazaradze, there is doubt that the government uses the criminal prosecution as the leverage to put pressure against its opponents.

The long-running investigations and trials against the representatives of opposition parties have become a widespread practice. As its seems the government uses this method to indirectly pressure its opponents. Gigi Ugulava’s sentencing may also be a message to other opposition leaders.

In the recent period, representatives of Georgia’s partner countries and international organizations have increasingly pointed to alarming trends in the country. Along with the electoral system, Western partners’ statements focus on the problems of independence of the judiciary and prosecution and prosecution of political opponents.

By this ruling, the Georgian government once again ignored the country’s interests and the recommendations of its Western partners. The recent actions of the authorities have left the impression of a demonstration of force, and they are increasingly distancing themselves from political rationality, increasing the nihilism in the society and the threat of isolation of the country.

Taking the general context of the country and the forthcoming election period into account and amid the ongoing negotiations between the authorities and the opposition, the arrest of one of the leaders of the opposition does indicate that the authorities have desire to continue the negotiations. Such rulings help to radicalize the situation and reduce the resources for dialogue and constructive relations between different political forces.

The verdict against Gigi Ugulava confirms the influence of the government on the justice system and the tendencies of selective justice. The political bias of the prosecution and judiciary endangers the country’s democratic development, further undermines public confidence in state institutions and the rule of law, and affects the pre-election environment.

We call on the Georgian authorities, the ruling party and the country’s informal ruler - Bidzina Ivanishvili, to stop exercising selective justice against their opponents and people with different views, to promote a constructive resolution of the political crisis and to prioritize the interests of the population and the development of the country instead of party interests”, - reads the statement.

The joint statement is signed by 12 NGO.