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Georgian Opposition Leader Remanded In Detention Amid Protests

Nika Melia appears in court in Tbilisi on April 13.
Nika Melia appears in court in Tbilisi on April 13.

TBILISI – A court in Tbilisi has ordered the continued detention of the leader of the main opposition party, Nika Melia, whose case has roiled Georgia's political scene.

Judge Nino Chakhnashvili handed down her decision on April 13 while hundreds of Melia's supporters rallied outside the court building demanding release of the leader of the United National Movement (ENM).

Melia went on trial on April 8 charged with organizing "mass violence" during 2019 anti-government protests. Melia has rejected the charge, calling it politically motivated, which the ruling Georgian Dream party denies.

The decision to arrest Melia after he refused to pay an increased bail bond led to the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia in February.

Gakharia said Melia's arrest was unacceptable if it threatened to fuel political divisions in the country of 3.7 million people.

The political scene in Georgia has been on the brink of crisis since October elections dominated by the Georgian Dream party, but which independent monitors said were marred by irregularities.

The Interior Ministry arrested Melia on February 23, five days after Gakharia stepped down, which further deepened an ongoing political crisis in the South Caucasus country caused by October parliamentary elections.

The 41-year-old politician faces up to nine years in prison if found guilty.

Two rounds of EU-mediated talks in March between the government and the opposition aimed at de-escalating the postelection tensions have failed to produce any breakthrough.

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