Georgia court frees opposition leader from illegal detention
TBILISI – A court in ex-Soviet Georgia ordered a top opposition leader detained on graft charges to be released from jail after his 14-month pre-trial detention was declared unconstitutional.
Applause broke out as former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava – an ally of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili – walked out of court a free man following the judge's announcement, cheered by hundreds of supporters. Ugulava had been held since July 2014 on accusations of misspending state funds, charges he rejected as trumped-up and politically motivated.
The judge ordered his release a day after Georgia's Constitutional Court ruled that his time behind bars breached the legal nine-month limit for pre-trial detention and said the authorities were breaking the law by keeping him locked up.
His lawyer however said he feared Ugulava would be quickly re-arrested. “The authorities and judges act in collusion and Gigi Ugulava's fresh imprisonment seems imminent,” his lawyer, Beka Basilaia, told AFP. “Ruling coalition leaders have already publicly announced that my client will soon be convicted and jailed,” he said.