The case of Nika Melia

On February 12, 2021, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia applied to the Parliament for consent to arrest the Chairman of the United National Movement, MP Nika Melia.

Prosecutors appealed to parliament after Melia refused to pay an additional 40,000 Gel bail in November for throwing away an electronic monitoring bracelet in protest. Melia initially owed 30,000 GEL bail in the June 20-21, 2019 case, which he paid. At the plenary session held on February 16, the Parliament of Georgia lifted the immunity of Nika Melia by 88 votes to 2 (members of “Citizens” Aleksandre Elisashvili [1] and Levan Ioseliani voted against the decision). Before the hearing, the ombudsman and Transparency International Georgia issued a statement urging parliament not to consent to Melia’s detention. The same evening, the court sentenced Nika Melia to pre-trial detention. Melia was watching the events from the United National Movement office together with his supporters and other opposition leaders.

Ambassadors accredited to Georgia and Georgia’s international partners responded to Nika Melia’s case. EU Ambassador Carl Hartzel said he was not going to talk about the legal side. He singled out two factors, a lack of trust in the judiciary and a high level of polarization, which is a devastating combination. The assessments of MEPs Anna Fotiga and Andrius Kubilius were critical. Fotiga said he was concerned about Georgia’s decision, “a country that set an example for others and is now beginning to look back on the turbulent past of the 1990s.” For his part, Lithuanian MEP Andrius Kubilius noted that the possible arrest of the leader of the National Movement threatened Georgia’s move towards Euro-Atlantic integration. US Senator Jim Risch also made a comment about Melia’s case. He called the court ruling “another politically motivated detention.” Lithuanian Ambassador to Georgia Andrius Kalindra arrived at the UNM office. As he explained to the journalists, he is concerned that disproportionate measures may be taken in connection with the events.

On February 18, 2021, Giorgi Gakharia resigned due to a disagreement with his team over the implementation of Nika Melia’s case.

Changes in Government: Gakharia resigns and Irakli Gharibashvili is the candidate for the post of Prime Minister

Giorgi Gakharia resigned due to a disagreement with his team over the implementation of Nika Melia’s case On February 18, 2021. He said that although Nika Melia was “a man who called on our citizens to storm the parliament on June 20”, his arrest could “endanger the health and lives of citizens or create an opportunity for political escalation in the country.” Also on February 18, after the meeting of the Georgian Dream Political Council, Irakli Kobakhidze, the party chairman, nominated Irakli Gharibashvili as the candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Georgia. He previously held the positions of Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia (2012-2013), Prime Minister of Georgia (2013-2015) and Minister of Defense of Georgia (2019-2021).

Sozar Subari [2], a member of the parliamentary majority, called Gakharia’s resignation “unexpected and uncomfortable.” Nika Melia, the chairman of the United National Movement, said, “Irakli Gharibashvili is a puppet. “It means that the Georgian Dream is also tired of being in power.” Levan Khabeishvili [3], a member of the same party, said that “Gharibashvili’s appointment  means they don’t want a peaceful resolution?” Lelo for Georgia member Pikria Chikhradze [4] also commented on the resignation of Giorgi Gakharia : “The wing focused on crisis resolution..” Responding to the resignation of Giorgi Gakharia, former US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly said that “the right move and the right tone, the government needs a dialogue with the opposition and not more confrontation.” On the same day, the European Union issued a statement calling on the Georgian authorities and opposition to “act with utmost restraint and responsibility to prevent further escalation.”

Parliament has decided to set up a temporary commission of inquiry into the parliamentary elections

Parliament decided by a majority vote to set up a temporary commission of inquiry into the October 31, 2020, parliamentary elections. The relevant resolution, prepared by the Georgian Dream faction, was adopted by 78 votes. A commission of inquiry was set up for three months. According to the regulations, the representation of the opposition in the temporary commission of inquiry should not be less than half of the total number of members of the commission.

According to Levan Ioseliani, [5] the leader of the party “Citizens”, the commission will be full-fledged only if the oppositional spectrum is fully represented in it. Levan Ioseliani will join the commission if all the oppositional spectrum is involved in his activities. The boycotting parties are not going to be involved in the work of the commission of inquiry. According to Zaal Udumashvili, a member of the United National Movement, “after three months, no matter how much we investigate, we won’t be able to find anything in the Central Election Commission documents.” Sergo Chikhladze, a member of the political council of Strategy Builder, said: “The CEC and the court will not be able to return for three months. “Then the results should be cancelled and we should arrive in the first days of November when we have massively presented all the evidence.”

 

Notes

[1] Aleksandre Elisashvili – The leader of party Citizens
[2] Sozar Subari – Public Defender of Georgia (2004-2009), Minister of Corrections and Probation (2012-2014), Minister of Internally Displaced Persons, Accommodation and Refugees (2014-2018), Member of Parliament of Georgia (2020-present)
[3] Levan Khabeishvili – Tbilisi Sakrebulo member (until 2017), Member of Parliament since 2020, refused the mandate
[4] Pikria Chikhradze – Member of the Parliament of Georgia (1995-2008)
[5] Levan Ioseliani – The leader of party Citizens

 


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