US Embassy 'Disappointed' that Ugulava's Detention Put Political Talks at Risk

The US embassy to Georgia has responded to the detention of one of the opposition leaders, Gigi Ugulava, expressing disappointment due to the fact that the timing and context of his conviction and sentencing yesterday has put the dialogue regarding the electoral system between opposition parties and the ruling Georgian Dream party at risk.

The Embassy calls on all sides to remain committed to the political dialogue.

“The US Embassy supports the political dialogue between Georgia’s governing party and opposition representatives aimed at reaching an agreement on an election system that best serves the Georgian people. The US Embassy is disappointed that the timing and context of the conviction and sentencing of an opposition leader last night has put the dialogue at risk.

"An environment conducive to the successful continuation of the dialogue requires an independent, transparent judicial system free of political influence. We call on all sides to remain committed to the political dialogue, as well as further refinements to the electoral code, as the best way to create the conditions for free and fair elections,” the Embassy said in a statement released on Tuesday. 

On February 10, the Supreme Court found Ugulava guilty of embezzling funds, in particular, GEL 48 million and sentenced him to three years in prison.

The Court satisfied the prosecution's motion, according to which, he embezzled funds from the Tbilisi Development Fund, a non-commercial legal entity founded by the City Hall, the purpose of which is to preserve the historic look of the City and promote the growth of real estate value.

"If prison is a path to freedom, I am ready to go to prison for the third time," the leader of the European Georgia party answered the Supreme Court's decision regarding his imprisonment. 

He added that the verdict against him was issued not by the Supreme Court but by personally Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the ruling party Georgian Dream. 

Shortly after, the opposition representatives announced the suspension of dialogue with the government regarding the electoral system.

"The Ruling Party Georgian Dream has removed the space for agreements and negotiations in the country. Therefore, the opposition can make the only decision - any negotiations will be suspended from the moment of Ugulava's detention," David Bakradze, the leader of European Georgia, stated. 

By Ana Dumbadze 

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11 February 2020 17:08