The Tbilisi City Court satisfied today the prosecution’s motion to send opposition United National Movement’s (UNM) Chairperson Nika Melia to pretrial detention after he refused to post bail of GEL 40,000 (USD 12,000). This was the increased amount of bail in the case where the prosecution charged Melia of heading mass violence during the protest during the night of June 20-21, 2019.
The bail was increased after Melia publicly removed an electronic monitoring bracelet during the opposition’s post-election rally in November 2020. The UNM leader had already posted the initial amount of GEL 30,000 (USD 9,000) imposed by the court.
Leaders of the Georgian opposition parties and Melia’s supporters warned earlier they would resist detention. They say the prosecution and the court are engaged in politically motivated persecution, the allegation that the Georgian Dream government denies.
After the ruling
In a press briefing after the court ruling, Melia, surrounded by his supporters, said the opposition parties put their differences aside. In his words, there are “no more partisan politics” in Georgia, but the two sides oppose each other – one standing for “the interests of the Georgian national movement” and the other – for the interests of the Russian occupation forces, and Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream’s founder and patron.
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell warned earlier today that the case will have a “wider impact” on the political developments in the country, as the talks on resolving the post-election impasse have been stalled for two months.
Ahead of the ruling, 19 local CSOs also weighed in, urging the Court to thoroughly consider the legal reasoning behind the prosecution’s motion. The third sector warned that “selective persecution” of the largest opposition party’s leader “irreparably damage the country’s democratic image.”
The watchdogs also highlighted that while Melia is facing charges on the June 20-21 of 2019 unrest case, those responsible for the “disproportionate” use of force during the police dispersal remain unpunished.
After the ruling, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia called both on the opposition and the government “to exercise maximum restraint”. “This must be resolved peacefully,” the Embassy tweet read.
We call on the authorities and the opposition to exercise maximum restraint in the wake of tonight’s ruling. Violence serves no one except those who want to undermine Georgia’s stability. This must be resolved peacefully.— U.S. Embassy Tbilisi (@usingeo) February 17, 2021
NB: This post has been edited from its original version for clarity. The U.S. embassy tweet was added.