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Georgian Opposition Figure Sentenced To Three More Years In Prison

Gigi Ugulava was mayor of Tbilisi in 2005-2013.
Gigi Ugulava was mayor of Tbilisi in 2005-2013.

Georgia's Supreme Court on February 10 sentenced opposition leader Gigi Ugulava to 3 years and 2 months in prison on charges of misusing public funds while he was mayor of the capital, Tbilisi.

This was Ugulava's second conviction on similar charges, in a case the opposition says is politically motivated.

A number of criminal cases have been opened against leaders of the opposition after mass protests against tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili's ruling Georgian Dream party and its government.

The protests that began in the summer of 2019 have resulted in several arrests.

Dozens of former officials have been arrested on abuse-of-power and corruption charges since Georgian Dream came to power in 2012 after defeating then-President Mikheil Saakashvili's party in an election.

Ugulava, mayor of the capital from 2005-2013, was first sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison in September 2015 for similar offenses but was freed in January 2017 after a court reduced his sentence.

In 2018, Ugulava was sentenced again to 15 months in prison in the same case, but his sentence was considered to have been served.

The Supreme Court's February 10 ruling regards a new case of alleged misspending of funds, and the time he has already served will not count against it.

"This is a shameful decision made by the Ivanishvili regime," Tina Bokuchava, a leader of the opposition United National Movement, told reporters.

Critics accuse Ivanishvili of running the country from behind the scenes.

Ugulava, one of the leaders of the European Georgian Party, said he had not pleaded guilty and the verdict was a "legal farce."

"The fact is that the path chosen by the opposition frightens Ivanishvili," he told reporters before going to prison.

With reporting by Reuters