It all started on February 17th. On that day, the Tbilisi City Court decided to arrest Nika Melia, the leader of the largest Georgian opposition party, United National Movement. The next morning, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned. It is because of this case.
Along the way, some of the representatives of Western countries protested against the decision to arrest Melia. And initially it was unsuccessful.
What is the essence of the charges? And why did the decision of the Georgian court provoke criticism? And Melia (let it be a small spoiler at the beginning of the text) is still not under arrest.
Who is Melia?
Nikanor (aka Nika) Melia is the leader of the United National Movement political party. Member of the Georgian Parliament since November 2016.
An important detail: Mikheil Saakashvili is the honorary chairman of the UNM.
In the 2020 elections, Melia was re-elected to parliament. And a year before that, an episode occurred, which became the reason for the criminal prosecution of the oppositionist.
What is Melia accused of?
Melia is accused of organizing and leading gang violence at protests outside the parliament in Georgia. We are talking about the riots on June 20, 2019, also known as Gavrilov's night.
What a night?
The reason for the protests outside the building of the Georgian parliament was the speech on June 20 by State Duma member Sergei Gavrilov at a meeting of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. The fact is that Gavrilov decided to chair the meeting from the place of the speaker of the Georgian parliament.
This drew sharp criticism from the opposition and massive protests. The opposition disrupted the work of the assembly and forced the Russian delegation to leave Tbilisi.
The rally under parliament was accompanied by clashes with law enforcement officers and arrests. In just two days of protests, 240 people were injured.
Melia was accused of organizing these protests.
Further, the parliament, where the ruling Georgian Dream party had a constitutional majority, lifted Melia's parliamentary immunity, and the court established a measure of restraint in the form of a bail and an obligation to wear an electronic bracelet.
What happened next?
Last fall, Melia, who called the criminal case against him "political persecution," demonstratively removed the bracelet, violating the measure of restraint.
Then the reaction to the politician's demarche was only an increase in the amount of the bail. But a few days ago, it seems, the authorities escalated the situation. And the court decided to arrest Melia. Although representatives of Western countries actively discouraged the Georgian authorities from taking such a step.
Melia did not take part in the trial. In addition, as Evropeyskaya Pravda specifies, his party colleagues arrived at the headquarters where the oppositionist was. The Ambassador of Lithuania Andrius Kalindra decided to stay there until the end of the political tension.
In addition, another important event happened. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned because of this case. It is somewhat ironic that it was he who led the dispersal of the protesters during Gavrilov's night.
Gakharia explained his resignation "by disagreements with the ruling team on the implementation of the court decision on Melia." The politician considered that such a decision threatens the safety of many citizens.
It is worth recalling that parliamentary elections were held last fall. And they also led to a political crisis.
Then the opposition accused the Georgian Dream party of unprecedented fraud and even refused to enter parliament, demanding re-elections. The ruling party, which received 90 out of 150 mandates, did not heed these demands.
As of now
Irakli Garibashvili was nominated for the post of prime minister. After Gakharia's resignation, the Interior Ministry announced a temporary suspension of the procedure for Melia's detention.
“Thousands of people have gathered in the office of our party, they are determined not to allow the special forces and repressive authorities of Georgia to seize the leader,” Mikheil Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page.