Opposition member alleges ex-Interior Minister possibly behind illegal recording involving UNM party Chair

Bacho Dolidze, a member of the United National Movement opposition, said former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili was likely to stand behind a “fabricated” audio recording involving the party chair Nika Melia. Photo: IPN

Agenda.ge, 10 Jan 2023 - 14:34, Tbilisi,Georgia

Bacho Dolidze, a member of the United National Movement - the largest opposition party in Georgia - on Tuesday said the former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili could be behind the recent release of illegal audio recording involving the party’s incumbent Chair Nika Melia. 

In the recording, published on social media on Monday, Melia is apparently heard recalling his phone conversation with Mikheil Saakashvili, the currently imprisoned former President, ahead of the 2021 municipal elections in Georgia, and insults him for his views while also stating his views on the possibility of Saakashvili’s return to Georgia from Ukraine for the race. 

Saakashvili was arrested in October 2021, just one day before the elections, in Tbilisi, following a clandestine return to the country, and has been in custody since then for abuse of power charges he had been convicted for in absentia in 2018. 

In his previous comments Melia confirmed he was against Saakashvili's return to Georgia. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge. 

The recording has come on the heels of recent alleged intra-party controversies in the UNM over Saakashvili as well as the planned elections for party leadership, following an unexpected briefing of several party members who late last year called for replacement of Melia. 

In comments over the “fabricated” recording, Dolidze claimed the former Interior Minister, one of the most influential figures in the former UNM Government and Saakashvili’s close ally, could have initiated the “illegal move” to hamper Melia’s re-election to the position. 

He claimed Melia’s absence from UNM leadership would also benefit the ruling Georgian Dream party and “ease its fight” with the “main opposition group”. 

Levan Khabeishvili, a fellow member of the UNM and a major competitor of Melia in the election, has accused the current Government of having released the recording, while Saakashvili and other UNM members condemned it as a “dirty method".