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Georgia Releases Opposition Leader Who Was Jailed Illegally

A Tbilisi court released a top opposition leader from prison late September 17 a day after Georgia's constitutional court ruled that his detention was illegal.

Gigi Ugulava, a former mayor of Tbilisi who was held in pretrial detention for 14 months, still faces multiple criminal charges including money laundering and misspending public funds in several cases the opposition says are politically motivated.

A courtroom packed with Ugulava's supporters erupted in applause as the presiding judge announced the decision to release him. Friends, supporters, and members of his opposition United National Movement chanted his name as he left the building.

Ugulava immediately vowed to challenge the government's "grip on power."

Dozens of ex-officials, including a former prime minister, have been arrested on charges such as abuse of power and corruption since the Georgia Dream coalition government took office after defeating former President Mikheil Saakashvili's party in an election three years ago.

Western countries have expressed concerns that the government has used selective justice and politically persecuted opponents.

Officials in the South Caucasus country deny that the prosecution of former officials is political and are promising a fair trial.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Democracy & Freedom Watch