Georgia frees opposition leader Melia after court ruling

Nika Melia’s release is seen as a significant step in an EU-backed plan to help end a prolonged political crisis.

Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement party, walks out of prison [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

Jailed Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia has been freed from prison after a court ordered his release on bail – a significant step in a European Union-backed plan to help end a prolonged political crisis.

Speaking to supporters and journalists gathered outside the court in the capital, Tbilisi, Melia said on Monday he would consult his party about his next political steps, after domestic media reported that the court had ordered his release from pre-trial detention.

Georgia, a south Caucasian republic with ambitions to join NATO and other Western organisations, has faced political turmoil since a parliamentary election last November, which the ruling Georgian Dream party won but the opposition called unfair.

Police stormed the offices of Melia’s United National Movement (UNM) opposition party in February to arrest him over accusations that he fomented violence during anti-government protests in 2019, charges he says are politically motivated.

His arrest prompted then-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, in office for just five months, to resign, warning that Melia’s detention could worsen political rifts.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Melia said he would consult with the UNM and other political leaders about his next steps.

“It will take some time, a few days to make a decision,” he said.

A deal brokered last month by EU diplomats to help end the crisis foresees the release of people convicted on charges related to the 2019 protests.

The agreement also includes sweeping electoral and judicial reforms, including more power-sharing in parliament, starting from this year’s autumn session.

Source: News Agencies