United National Movement Chair Nika Melia has left prison premises today, following the decision by Tbilisi City Court to replace his pretrial detention with a release on bail, posted by the EU earlier on May 8.
In his remarks to reporters, Melia thanked EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell, European Council President Charles Michel, and U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan for their contributions to the EU-mediated talks between the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties.
Starting tomorrow, Melia said he will hold consultations with the United National Movement and the rest of the opposition parties to decide on whether to enter the Parliament. “I will only make the decision after talking to each of my colleagues,” he stressed.
Melia said his release cannot be considered a final victory for the opposition, arguing he will not be the “last political prisoner while [GD founder] Bidzina Ivanishvili remains in power.”
Police detained the opposition leader in the controversial raid on UNM headquarters on February 23, only a few hours into Irakli Garibashvili’s election as Prime Minister. The arrest came after Melia, facing charges for heading mass violence during the protest on the night of June 20-21, 2019, refused to post an increased bail of GEL 40,000 (USD 11,680).
The bail for Melia was increased after he publicly removed an electronic monitoring bracelet during a rally on November 1 while protesting “fraudulent” parliamentary elections outside the Parliament building. The UNM leader had already posted the initial amount of GEL 30,000 (USD 8,760) imposed by the Court for the June 20-21 unrest case.
The detention further exacerbated Georgia’s political impasse, leading to the launch of EU-mediated talks by European Council President Charles Michel on March 1. Although the EU-brokered deal envisaged releasing Melia through an amnesty act on June 19-21, 2019, events, the detained opposition leader decried the proposal for clemency, and agreed to be released through the EU-offered bail payment.