Georgian court OKs arrest of UNM opposition leader – supporters and police mobilize
Nika Melia, the leader of the main opposition party in Georgia – the United National Movement – faces arrest after a court ruled on February 17 that he should be remanded into custody for failure to post bail.
His supporters gathered outside the party office saying that they will not let the police take him away.
The Nika Melia case has been ongoing since 2019. The latest decision was to release him on bail. Now the judge of the Tbilisi City Court, Nino Chakhnashvili, granted the petition of the Prosecutor General’s Office to replace bail with a custodial measure.
Representatives of almost all opposition parties in Georgia, civil activists, and prominent public figures gathered at the office of the National Movement. This includes the famous performer Buba Kikabidze.
A large number of police officers have been mobilized outside of the party’s office.
The court hearing lasted almost six hours, after which the judge ruled to arrest opposition leader Nika Melia.
Judge Nino Chakhnashvili’s name has been featured in several other high-profile cases that many in society consider to be politically motivated.
This includes the process of protests in Tbilisi on June 20-21, 2019, when 16 people were injured as a result of a brutal police response. Among them, 19-year-old Mako Gomuri, who lost an eye, after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by the police. Judge Chakhnashvili ruled that none of the victims should receive victim status.
On December 31, 2019, Judge Nino Chakhnashvili upheld the custodial sentence imposed on the founder of the opposition channel Mtavari, Giorgi Rurua.
Nino Chakhnashvili was appointed a judge for life in 2020
The Nika Melia case
The leader of the National Movement, Nika Melia, is accused of participating in the riots on June 20-21, 2019, and calling for parliament to be stormed. This marked the beginning of protests in Georgia which continued for a year.
On June 26, 2019, parliament suspended Melia’s immunity. On June 27, the prosecutor’s office released him on bail of GEL 30,000 [approximately $10,000] and additional restrictive measures. In particular, Melia was obliged to wear an electronic tagging bracelet.
- Four years in a nutshell – highlights from the outgoing Georgian parliament. Video
- All you need to know about the Tbilisi protests in 180 seconds
The case took another twist after Nika Melia called the bracelet “a symbol of injustice”, took it off, and threw it into a crowd at a large-scale rally in Tbilisi on November 1, 2020. Several thousand people gathered at that rally to protest against the rigging of the October 31 parliamentary elections.
As per the court decision, the amount of Melia’s bail was increased to 70,000 GEL, that is, another 40,000 GEL on top of the original bail figure [approximately $15,000].
Melia refused to post bail and said that the court and the prosecutor’s office are “bought by [the oligarch and de facto ruler of Georgia] Ivanishvili”.
On October 31, 2020 Nika Melia again became an MP in the newly elected parliament. Therefore, the issue of his immunity was considered for a second time.
Since the October 2020 parliamentary elections, Melia, as well as approximately 50 other MPs elected from the opposition bloc, has been boycotting their seats in parliament.
Nika Melia became the chairman of the United National Movement on December 25, 2020