Georgia: prominent opposition figure to remain under arrest
After five hours of trial, the Tbilisi City Court decided to keep Nika Melia, a leader of the Georgian opposition and head of the United National Movement party, in custody.
His lawyers had demanded that Melia be released, insisting there were no legal grounds for his detention.
The Nika Melia case
Nika Melia is the chairman of the former ruling United National Movement party, which was founded by ex-Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is now outside the country, as several criminal cases have been opened against him.
Melia is charged with organizing a large-scale rally in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi on June 20, 2019, during the visit to Georgia of Russian legislator Sergei Gavrilov.
In 2019, the court did not arrest Melia. He was released on 30,000 GEL [about $9,000] bail and required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
In November 2020, Melia publicly took off the bracelet, calling it a symbol of injustice.
In response, the prosecution increased the size of the bail by another 40,000 GEL [about $12,000] which Melia refused to pay. This then became the official reason for his detention. Several days before his arrest, THE parliament had stripped Melia of his MP status.
NGOs, as well as the Ombudsman of Georgia and international partners, have drawn attention to what they say are legal issues in the case, and allege it is politically motivated.
A few days before Melia’s arrest, Žygimantas Pavilionis, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Lithuanian parliament and an active supporter of Georgia’s European integration ambitions, visited Tbilisi to try to persuade the Georgian authorities not to arrest the opposition figure.
Later, Christian Danielsson, envoy of President Michel to the EU, came to Georgia on two occasions to mediate the negotiations between the government and opposition. But both his visits proved futile – the government and the opposition failed to come to an agreement.
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“Do not agree to a compromise” – Melia turned to his comrades-in-arms
During the most recent round of the negotiations between the authorities and the opposition, Christian Danielsson proposed his own version of an agreement that could, in the opinion shared by the Western partners, reconcile the parties and lead Georgia out of the acute political crisis.
The entire document can be read here. As one of the compromises, it was proposed to declare an amnesty for all defendants in the case of the June 20-21, 2019 protests. Nika Melia would also be among the amnestied.
However, both he and the majority in the opposition consider this point unacceptable, as it would mean recognizing his arrest as a legitimate measure.
During the court hearing on April 13, Nika Melia appealed to the opposition and demanded that they “under no circumstances agree to an amnesty in order to improve his situation.”
“It is categorically unacceptable to rewrite history. 10-15 years will pass, and the truth will be clear, and it will be impossible to portray patriots as criminals and vice versa, ”Melia said.
One of the leaders of the opposition, Gigi Ugulava, called the court hearing “a disaster and a disgusting phenomenon dressed in a judicial robe.”
“I’ve been to 30 trials and have not seen this level of dishonesty… The judge and the court … lie to your face. They arrested him in retaliation for the opposition refusing to enter the parliament. The bargaining continues,” said Ugulava.