Georgian police have detained Nika Meliya, head of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement. It is a party whose informal leader is former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
On the morning of February 23, security officers entered the office of the political force. Supporters of the “EPR” tried to resist, but the detention of the party leader was not prevented.
According to Georgia Online, he was put in a car and taken away in an unknown direction.
Khatiya Dekanoidze spread information that equipment, including servers, was also confiscated from the party’s office. And also destroyed archives and documents.
British Ambassador Mark Clayton said he was shocked by what he saw.
“I am shocked by what happened this morning at the ENR headquarters. Violence and chaos in Tbilisi is the last thing Georgia needs now. I urge all parties to act with restraint now and in the future,” he wrote on Twitter.
The local Ministry of Internal Affairs explained that by detaining Melia, law enforcement officers complied with the court’s decision to arrest him on February 17.
On February 18, after the verdict was announced, Georgian Prime Minister Georgy Gakharia announced his resignation.
According to him, Melia never particularly respected Georgian law, called on citizens to storm the parliament on June 20, 2019 and was one of the organizers of the “invasion of parliament.”
“Nevertheless, my firm position is that it is unacceptable to carry out a lawful, judicial measure against one person if it poses a risk to the health, life of our citizens, or creates an opportunity for political escalation in the country,” Gahariya said.
On the evening of February 22, the Georgian parliament approved the new head of government, Irakli Garibashvili. After that, the police began to act more decisively against the opposition.
Tensions and Saakashvili’s party
Mikheil Saakashvili, who calls the United National Movement “his party,” said on Facebook that the Georgian prime minister’s decision to resign was “forced”: “The Georgian prime minister was forced to resign after a protest by the united opposition. in which my party is in the lead “.
He said that people would not allow the oppositionist to be detained.
“Thousands of people have gathered in our party’s office, determined not to allow the Georgian special services and repressive authorities to seize the leader,” Mr Saakashvili, who heads the executive committee of the Presidential Reform Council in Ukraine, wrote on 18 February.
Georgia has stripped Saakashvili of his citizenship and there are several convictions against him. He promised to return home if his party won the parliamentary elections.
After the resignation of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia stated that the agency is postponing the planned measures related to the case of Melia – it is probably a matter of execution of the court decision.
The day before, Tbilisi City Court Judge Nino Chakhnashvili agreed with the prosecutor’s office’s request and ruled that Melia should be remanded in custody.
The opposition leader is accused of leading and participating in group violence on June 20, 2019 during a protest rally in the center of Tbilisi, which took place after the visit of Russian MP Sergei Gavrilov to Georgia.
Then thousands of people gathered near the building of the legislature to show outrage that at a meeting of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy, Russian State Duma deputy Sergei Gavrilov took the seat of speaker.
The protest escalated into clashes with police. Law enforcement officers used tear gas and rubber bullets at participants who tried to break through the police border.
The prosecutor’s office explained its demand by the fact that the oppositionist refused to pay an additional 40 thousand GEL (about 12 thousand dollars) bail after he demonstratively threw out an electronic bracelet in November last year.
Melia’s lawyers called the court’s decision political.
“This is a precedent of how the court and all structures use it as an instrument of political pressure. It is a very shameful decision. In itself, it could not be made in court, it was made by the political leadership,” Melia’s lawyer Georgy Kondakhishvili told reporters.
Melia himself then followed all the events from the office of the “United National Movement”. Leaders and activists of opposition parties gathered there in support. They, like Melia himself, consider the actions of law enforcement agencies to be politically motivated.
“I will not pay the bail, and you will not be able to detain me,” Melia said at a briefing on February 5, after the prosecutor’s office warned him that the bail should be paid within a week.
According to him, he respects state institutions, but the justice system and the Georgian parliament today serve the ex-chairman of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, whom the position calls the sole and informal leader of Georgia.
The day before, the Georgian parliament, in which most of the opposition, which considers the October 31 election election to be rigged, did not take part, stripped Melia of her parliamentary immunity.
In this way, the deputies agreed that the prosecutor’s office should apply to the court to change the measure of restraint and detain the oppositionist.
The voting took place against the background of protests by activists. They brought barbed wire to the parliament, which, in their opinion, symbolizes today’s realities in Georgia.
In the summer of 2019, the court imposed a precautionary measure on Melia – bail of 30 thousand GEL and a number of restrictions, in particular, on public speeches in crowded places, ie at rallies and protests. The appellate court later ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet.
Melia did everything, but in November last year, in protest against the results of the October 31 election, which the opposition considers rigged, he demonstratively removed his bracelet.
In response, the prosecutor’s office began to call for stricter precautionary measures.
The arrest of the opposition threatens the beginning of a new wave of protests in Georgia.
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