TBILISI, DFWatch–Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava has left the police building after three hours of questioning. He said that he thinks he won’t be questioned again about the street violence he was involved in on February 8.
The mayor was questioned as a witness regarding the massive scuffle that broke out in front of the National Library that day. The president was about to hold an address to the nation inside, when a crowd of demonstrators, some of them former prisoners angry about the state of the justice system, blocked the entrance.
When members of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement party, including Ugulava, arrived to listen to the speech, they tried to force their way through the tightly packed crowd of anti-Saakashvili protesters. This led to a chaotic pushing around and fist-fighting that left many injured, and a female member of parliament ended up with a bloody nose.
Three people were detained accused of beating Ugulava’s allies; two of them were later fined, the third one is awaiting trial. But he himself has also come in the spotlight for his role in escalating the situation. Footage showed Mayor Ugulava urging on the National Movement supporters, waving his arms in the air.
The Interior Ministry called him several times to come for questioning, but he refused, using his immunity as an elected official and instead invited investigators to his office, an offer they rejected.
After leaving the police station, Ugulava told journalists that he thinks the investigation doesn’t give answers to why there was not made a corridor to offer safe passage for people wishing to enter the library. He characterized the prisoner rights demonstrators as ‘the violent side’.
Ugulava said he assumes that he won’t be questioned again about the February 8 events. He added that in his opinion, the Interior Minister should also be questioned in this case, as well as the policemen who were responsible for safety guarantees that day.
“During the questioning, I described all these processes which people already know and which was from a number of angles,” he said.
Ugulava says the arm-waving, shown in a video posted on the Internet, was meant to make a car that was blocking the way leave.
“I asked the members of parliament to walk together to avoid individual attacks. As for the word ‘show’, which [Interior Minister Irakli] Gharibashvili used for cheap manipulation, I said this word in a specific context,” he explained. “When there was ongoing egg-throwing and cursing, I reminded the policemen, who were doing nothing, that they had to establish order. Then I told a specific person: ‘If you want a show, here is your show’.”
The mayor expressed readiness to cooperate with the investigation again later.