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Georgia Court Rules Detention Of Top Opposition Leader Illegal

Gigi Ugulava

Georgia's constitutional court ruled on September 16 that a top opposition leader detained for 14 months on graft charges is being illegally kept in prison.

Former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava -- an ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili -- has been held in pretrial detention since July 2014 on accusations of misspending state funds.

But the court ruled that his detention breached a nine-month limit for pretrial detention set by the constitution and that the authorities were breaking the law by keeping him behind bars.

"Gigi Ugulava's imprisonment is totally illegal," his lawyer, Beka Basilaia, said. "He must be released from detention immediately."

Ugulava is one of several former top officials prosecuted after his United National Movement party lost legislative elections to the current ruling Georgian Dream coalition in 2012. He maintains the prosecution is politically motivated.

Arrests of former top Saakashvili officials for alleged wrongdoing prompted warnings from the West over selective justice and the perceived persecution of political opponents.

During his tenure as the mayor of Tbilisi, Ugulava led major infrastructure projects and social reforms which dramatically improved living standards in the Georgian capital.

Based on reporting by AFP and