Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia released from prison after EU posts bail
Supporters and members of the UNM party gathered to greet Nika Melia outside the prison building this afternoon.
“Today is a classic example of the supposedly independent judicial system in Georgia. How come there’d been no court decision all this time, and now, miraculously, it comes through at the same time as the petition of the prosecutor’s office and the bail that the European Union has paid for Nika Melia to be released?”, the opposition leader’s lawyer Giorgi Kondakhishvili said to reporters.
The bail decision comes in the wake of “the understanding reached between the political parties on April 19, 2021, within the framework of the EU-mediated agreement”, the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia stated adding that this marks another important step taken to end the political crisis in Georgia.
The issue of bail had been on the table since the signing of ‘The Future Path for Georgia’, the EU-proposed agreement offering solutions to the issues that had been the greatest stumbling blocks in the negotiations between the government and opposition: the release of political prisoners (Nika Melia and Giorgi Rurua), and holding of early parliamentary elections.
Only two opposition parties, United National Movement and European Georgia, did not sign the document although a few individual and former members of these parties did put their signatures to it.
On April 26, Nika Melia filed an appeal and expressed his readiness to leave the prison in the event of the European Union posting his bail.
The parliament has also initiated two bills on amnesty in cases related to the dispersal of protests in Tbilisi on June 19-21, 2019. This amnesty is also part of the EU-proposed agreement signed by the government and opposition. However, the ruling party and the opposition bloc have different ideas about who exactly should qualify for the amnesty. Therefore, two different versions of the bill are now being considered.
The Nika Melia case
Nika Melia is the chairman of the formerly ruling United National Movement party, which was founded by ex-Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who now resides abroad 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 Russian legislator Sergei Gavrilov’s visit to Georgia.
In 2019, the court did put Melia under arrest and he was released on 30,000 GEL bail [approximately $9,000] 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 Melia’s bail by another 40,000 GEL [about $12,000] which he refused to pay and which later became the grounds for his subsequent arrest. Several days before Melia was arrested, the parliament had stripped him of his MP status.
NGOs, as well as the Ombudswoman of Georgia and the country’s international partners, have drawn attention to what they say are legal irregularities 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 leader.
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. However, both his visits proved futile as the government and the opposition failed to come to an agreement.