TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday failed to announce a ruling concerning the pre-trial detention of the former Tbilisi mayor, claiming that the judge feels ill and he cannot be present to sign the ruling.
Ex-Mayor Gigi Ugulava, an ally of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, is on trial for money laundering and election fraud, among other things.
The Constitution Court’s decision enraged the National Movement and their supporters, who claim that the court is following orders from the government and what they call its informal leader, billionaire and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The court’s ruling was expected to be announced at 17:00 on Tuesday, but after an hour of building expectations, there was an announcement that Merab Turava, who was judge during the main hearings, was not present for health reasons and the law about the Constitutional Court prohibits announcing the ruling without the signature of participatory judges.
What is in dispute is what rules apply in the case of Ugulava’s pre-trial detention. the ex-mayor’s lawyers argue that it is unconstitutional to use nine months pre-trial detention over and over again, under different charges.
They sued nine months ago in order to have this application of the law declared unconstitutional. The lawyers also argue that usually there is not enough evidence when a person is placed in pre-trial detention.
Beka Basilaia, one of Ugulava’s lawyers, claims that article 18 of the Constitution reads that term of a person’s preliminary detention should not exceed 9 months.
Ugulava was detained in the beginning of July in 2014 and was charged for several cases, including money laundering and election fraud.
In February, the court decided to keep him in detention, even though he had been so for the maximum nine months.
Koba Subeliani from the National Movement Tuesday evening claimed that the detention of Ugulava is unlawful and that judge Merab Turava is acting on orders from former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who created the governing Georgian Dream coalition and many believe is controlling the government.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday issued a statement explaining its September 15 ruling. It says that when Turava didn’t show up in court at 13:00 for the signing procedure, the court offered the judge to sign the ruling at a convenient place and at a convenient time.
“He refused this proposal and named contradictory reasons about him not showing up and then remarked that most likely he would be able to come to court. In addition, he unequivocally confirmed that he was able to sign the ruling,” the statement reads.
Later the same day, members od Turava’s family told the court that he was at a clinic, after which the Constitutional Court had to postpone the announcement of the ruling.
The court is currently offering Turava another chance to sign the document at a convenient location.