TBILISI, DFWatch–The former mayor of Tbilisi was released from prison Friday evening. Tbilisi Court of Appeal partially reduced his sentence to 1 year, 3 months and 22 days. As the detention is counted from September 18, 2015, his term expired on January 6.
Ugulava, an important figure in the United National Movement (UNM) and once a close ally of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, was cheered by his family, friends and UNM members, as well as scores of journalists as he stepped out into freedom.
On the doorstep to the prison building, he called on the government to introduce an amnesty for ‘political prisoners’.
“If my resignation is the beginning of a process, it’s very good. I want everyone to realize that as long as we have political prisoners in the country, [the political climate] will be extremely radical,” he said.
Writing on Facebook, former President and informal leader of UNM Mikheil Saakashvili congratulated his former ally.
Ugulava is regarded as a potential frontman of the anti-Saakashvili faction inside UNM. The level of conflict is so intense at the moment that there is widespread expectation of a formal split at a party convention to be held in two weeks.
The trial against Ugulava was nothing if not “part of the oligarch’s personal campaign of intimidation and retaliation,” Saakashvili wrote in a Facebook post, referring to Bidzina Ivanishvili, who holds no formal position in public life but is believed to be calling the shots in the government and the parliamentary majority.