TBILISI, DFWatch–Five out of eight opposition parties and blocks which passed one percent barrier in 2020 parliamentary election – UNM, European Georgia, Lelo, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Labour Party – voice their support for and pledge to defend UNM’s Nika Melia in the face of his impending arrest after the Wednesday’s court ruling.
Several smaller political groups and individual politicians have also joined in.
Apart from politicians, dozens of opposition activists from various political forces have flocked to the UNM office and will spend the night there, expecting the arrival of riot police “any minute”, saying they will resist by all means, including by physical force.
The judge at the Tbilisi City Court satisfied the prosecutors’ motion Wednesday that mean placing Nika Melia in pretrial detention for alleged coup d’etat attempt back in July 2019, when thousands of anti-Russian protesters clashed with police at the parliament building in Tbilisi.
Tens of opposition activists, police officers and journalists were injured during those events, which the opposition has dubbed “Gavrilov Night”.
The prosecutor’s office demanded Melia’s imprisonment after he refused to pay an increased bail of GEL 40,000 (USD 12,000) for removing an electronic bracelet, insisting he cannot tolerate the “political persecution” any more.
He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on Tuesday.
It’s still unknown whether or when the police will undertake the arrest attempt. Earlier, Wednesday evening, opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi reported that riot police was gathering in the vicinity of the UNM headquarters on the eastern outskirts of Tbilisi, on the highway leading to Tbilisi International Airport. This information later was denied by authorities.
Nika Melia himself, who was recently elected UNM chairman, refuses to surrender, claiming that the criminal case against him is politically motivated.
US and EU diplomats stationed in Tbilisi voiced concern over an imminent political escalation, calling on both sides to “exercise maximum restraint”.
“Arresting and detaining Melia will inflame already tense situation and further delay negotiations to enable a multiparty parliament. Govt must defuse situation and restart those negotiations,” former US Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, tweeted.