“We are shocked”, “Georgia took a step back from democracy”: with these words Britain and the United States reacted to the decision of the Georgian authorities to arrest Nikanor Melia, a comrade-in-arms of Mikhail Saakashvili and the leader of his party. What exactly is Melia accused of, why did Tbilisi take such a step, and what consequences will this have for the republic?
On Tuesday morning, special forces of the Georgian Interior Ministry, using tear gas, arrested its leader Nikanor Melia in the office of the opposition United National Movement, who is suspected of organizing and participating in mass violence in the summer of 2019, the VZGLYAD newspaper correspondent in Tbilisi said. At the same time, Melia’s supporters tried to prevent the detention, resisted, shouted to the police that they were “slaves of the regime.”
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 21 people were detained at a rally near the office of the “nationals” for disobeying the police. The party’s office has been destroyed. The opposition called on supporters to rally outside the government building. Former Tbilisi Mayor Giorgi Ugulava said after Melia’s arrest that “the fight will be uncompromising, to the last drop of blood.”
Recall that Melia, who heads the party of ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili, is accused of organizing the storming of the Georgian parliament during anti-Russian actions in the summer of 2019, which began after the visit of Russian deputy Sergei Gavrilov to the country.
The court initially released him on bail with the condition of wearing an electronic bracelet, but later the oppositionist defiantly removed him, for which he was elected a new bail. Melia refused to pay the money, which is why the parliament deprived him of his parliamentary immunity. After the court’s arrest order on February 17, Melia locked himself in the office of his party, outside he was guarded by other oppositionists who claimed that they would not surrender Melia to the police. Nevertheless, the opposition had to make concessions to the police.
At the same time, Georgia’s Western partners have sharply criticized the official Tbilisi. In particular, British Ambassador to Georgia Mark Clayton said he was “shocked” by Melia’s arrest. “Violence and chaos in Tbilisi is the last thing Georgia needs now. I urge all parties to act with restraint now and in the coming days, ”the diplomat said.
The US Embassy believes that Georgia has taken a “step back”: “We regret that the calls of the US and other international partners for restraint and dialogue were ignored. Georgia has taken a step back on the democratic path of the states that are members of the Euro-Atlantic family, ”the American diplomatic mission said in a statement.
In addition, the co-chairman of the “Group of Friends of Georgia” in the US House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger hinted Tbilisi on a possible loss of support and called on the government of the republic to abandon such actions. “We are all watching you” – added is he.
However, such calls provoked an opposite reaction from official Tbilisi. In particular, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, said that Melia’s arrest fully meets all the requirements of the law. “30 years after the restoration of independence, we have to prove to the anti-state forces that we are a state,” he stressed.
And the new Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili said that “today we all have become witnesses of the fact that we are a legal, strong state” and thanked the Ministry of Internal Affairs for “protecting the honor of the state and stability”.
“The West is talking about the arrest of the leader of the Georgian opposition, while for Georgia Nikanor Melia is a criminal, as the court has determined. There are inconsistencies, ”said Soso Tsintsadze, a Georgian expert on foreign relations. According to him, Prime Minister Garibashvili should visit Washington and Brussels as soon as possible in order to settle all existing contradictions.
“For all the harshness of the statement of the US Embassy, which says that Georgia has taken a step back on the path to the family of Euro-Atlantic states, there are no direct threats yet.
It is obvious that the West will observe how strong the support of the opposition is among the people, how many citizens participate in the rallies. This will become an indicator of further US actions, ”Tsintsadze is sure.
At the same time, security expert Vakhtang Maisaya points out that Tbilisi is faced with a dilemma: on the one hand, enforcement of the law, and on the other hand, political pluralism.
“It is clear that the principle of the rule of law must be respected. But if we want to be considered a democratic state, then the detention of the leader of the opposition party has its own rules. Taking an office by special forces is not a very good thing. That is why our foreign friends and partners are demonstrating such a tough position, ”the analyst told VZGLYAD newspaper.
In turn, an expert on domestic policy Levan Nikoleishvili, on the air of the PosTV channel, recalled that Georgia “fulfills its obligations to the United States at the highest level,” for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Americans know very well how to deal with lawbreakers. Melia is sentenced by an independent judiciary. I have a question for all foreign partners of Georgia: how would they behave in such a case? Is it proposed not to comply with the judgment? But this is the path to destruction! America and Europe would have done the same as the Georgian authorities did, ”he said.
Meanwhile, the Federation Council drew attention to the fact that Georgia, which positions itself as a “European state” and enjoys the support of the West, is still far from the European principles of organizing political life. The assault on parliament in 2019, regular protests and the way Melia was arrested only confirm this.
“Also in this story we see another case of the use of double standards.
The Americans, for example, sent a considerable number of protesters to prisons after the capture of the Capitol. But at the same time, they prohibit other countries from acting in the same way in similar circumstances, ”
– pointed out the first deputy chairman of the Senate International Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov.
“As a result, I think, the Georgian leadership, firstly, will hear the shouts of London and Washington, and, most likely, will give some relief in relation to Melia. Secondly, the Georgian authorities still need to understand that they have no real allies and no one will break a spear for them. Therefore, the Georgians will certainly draw appropriate conclusions in order not to fall under the distribution anymore, ”the senator added.
“In such a situation, the only real ally of Georgia could be Russia. If Tbilisi understands this and begins to establish normal relations with Moscow, the situation in the republic will follow the path of improvement. But this is far too far. The official line of Tbilisi is still directed away from Moscow, and the result of this erroneous policy is more than eloquent, ”Jabarov summed up.
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