Georgia monitors react to Tbilisi raid and arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 24 February 2021 16:21

The PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have expressed their concern at developments in Tbilisi.

“While no-one should be above the law, the police raid on the UNM Headquarters and the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia have unnecessarily escalated tensions between the opposition and the ruling majority and deepened the political crisis in the country,” they said.

“Georgia’s democratic development needs restraint, dialogue and compromise, not escalation and confrontation,” said the two co-rapporteurs.

They called on all political forces to refrain from any actions that could further escalate tension, and to return to the negotiating table in order to find a political and mutually acceptable solution to resolve the ongoing crisis.

Source: https://pace.coe.int/en/news/8197/georgia-monitors-react-to-tbilisi-raid-and-arrest-of-opposition-leader-nika-melia

Opposition Reacts to PM Irakli Garibashvili’s Call for “Dialogue”

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 24 February 2021 13:50

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addressed “healthy” parts of the opposition on February 23 evening, saying “we are ready for real dialogue at any time and in any format.”

The new-old Prime Minister proposed to “all reasonable opposition forces to enter the Parliament, so that we may use the country’s legislature as the main platform for discussion.” PM Garibashvili also said enforcing the law and the detention of Nika Melia, chair of the largest opposition UNM party was “a necessary condition for the reduction of radicalism in politics.”

Civil.ge offers opposition reactions to Garibashvili’s statement, as political crisis runs deep and tensions run high in the country.

Zaal Udumashvili of the United National Movement said „We are ready to sit down at the negotiating table, provided that Nika Melia will also be sitting at the table.”

European Georgia’s Giga Bokeria wondered: “How could the man, openly calling for the destruction of all the opponents, be [regarded] the supporter of a dialogue?!”

“Whenever he [Garibashvili] gets back to  reason, and discusses the release of political prisoners and the snap elections, that would be a different story,” Bokeria said, adding that “until then, his words are not [considered to be] serious.”

Zurab Japaridze of the right-libertarian Girchi – More Freedom party said Garibashvili’s speech represents “a Russian and a criminal approach,” implying “I will imprison you, bully you and then I will come to talk to you.” This approach will not work out for them, Japaridze asserted. 

He reiterated the opposition’s pre-conditions for the Georgian Dream government to stop “political persecution,” to release “political prisoners” and to hold new elections.

Lelo for Georgia’s Badri Japaridze said on his part: “I could not see a sign [in Garibashvili’s statement] for them [GD] to be truly eager to normalize the situation.”

During his confirmation hearing on February 22, Garibashvili called the major opposition parties’ parliamentary boycott “a deliberate sabotage against our state.” He then ruled out “categorically” any talks about holding snap elections.

Source: https://civil.ge/archives/400715

Statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Nikanor Melia is detained

Published in Justice
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 11:40

The decision of Tbilisi City Court Judge - Nino Chakhnashvili announced on February 17 of the current year, to use the norm of detention against Nikanor Melia has been executed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Nikanor Melia is detained.
The law enforcers warned the citizens gathered in front and inside the office of the “United National Movement" located on the Kakheti Highway, Tbilisi, not to obstruct the representatives of the police in the execution of the court decision and gave a reasonable time.
Despite numerous warnings from the side of the Ministry on the spot, the gathered demonstrators at the party office did not obey the lawful request of the police and offered resistance to the law enforcement officers.
Thus, the police applied coercive measures and special means provided by law to enforce their official duties entrusted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by the court.

Georgian Police Storm UNM Office, Detain Opposition Party Leader Nikanor Melia

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 11:17

Georgian Police detained Nika Melia, the largest opposition party leader, in the early morning of February 23 during a special operation at the United National Movement headquarters.

Law enforcers stormed the office building where Melia, fellow opposition leaders and supporters have been gathered following the Court’s February 17 order for pretrial detention.

Varying media reports said police used either tear gas or pepper spray when entering Melia’s cabinet by force, as live footage showed opposition supporters coughing.

“This is the end of this government. We are firm and united in our faith,” Melia asserted in the moments ahead of his detention. The opposition leader called PM Garibashvili and Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili “traitors,” adding that “no Georgian should be tried in court” for protesting a Russian MP's presence in the country's legislature.

The Interior Ministry said it used  “proportional force and special means” during the operation, arguing opposition supporters “resisted” law enforcers despite “numerous warnings.” Law enforcers also detained 21 persons, including UNM member Giorgi Baramidze,  under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving disobedience of police orders.

Public Defender’s Statement on Stripping Nikanor Melia of Parliamentary Immunity

Published in Society
Tuesday, 16 February 2021 14:53

The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the Parliament of Georgia not to consent to the use of pre-trial detention against Nikanor Melia. We also call on the Prosecutor General's Office of Georgia to use the opportunities at its disposal and reconsider the decision on application of measures of restraint.

According to the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia, in order to apply a measure of restraint, it is necessary to properly substantiate its objectives and grounds. In particular, the Prosecutor’s Office must prove that a particular form of a measure of restraint is necessary, as the defendant may avoid attending the trial, hide, destroy information relevant to the case, or committ a new crime.

Violation of the measure of restraint should not be an automatic ground for ordering detention or any other strict measure. When considering the application of pre-trial detention for Nikanor Melia, the main subject of assessment should be - whether there is a need today to restrict the conduct of the defendant and whether this restriction serves the interests of justice; Moreover, more than 18 months have passed since the launch of criminal proceedings against the defendant, the investigation phase has already been completed and the case is currently being considered on its merits.

Considering that only three police officers were charged (non-custodial measures were used) with the use of excessive force against dozens of citizens and journalists during the June 20 events - the arrest of the leader of the opposition political party without proper justification of the procedural need, will be a big blow to the Georgian justice system, making it look like the practices common in non-democratic countries. And this type of international image will significantly slow down the process of western development of the country, which, along with many other benefits, implies the fundamental protection of human rights.

In view of the above, we call on the Members of Parliament to discuss and properly assess the need and necessity for the use of a measure of restraint against Nikanor Melia. At the same time, criminal prosecution and detention of leaders of opposition parties only harms the democratic image of the country and the trust in the democratic institutions of the state.

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