Georgian police on Tuesday arrested Nika Melia, the leader of Georgia’s main opposition party, the United National Movement (MNU), in a violent raid on her party’s headquarters, according to live footage on Mtavari TV. He was taken out of the premises of his political party to be placed in pre-trial detention.
Hundreds of riot police then used tear gas against his supporters and leaders of all opposition parties who have camped outside the building since Wednesday. Dozens of opposition supporters were also arrested.
British ambassador “shocked by scenes at MNU headquarters”
The police operation follows the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on Thursday, who cited a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of a court order to place Nika Melia in pre-trial detention.
The raid sparked outrage from the opposition and warnings from the Western allies of the former Soviet country. “Shocked by the scenes at MNU headquarters this morning,” British Ambassador Mark Clayton wrote on Twitter. “Violence and chaos in Tbilisi is the last thing Georgia needs right now. I urge all parties to act with restraint, now and in the days to come. ”
Shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters this morning. Violence and chaos in Tbilisi are the last thing Georgia needs right now. I urge all sides to act with restraint, now and in the coming days. @UKinGeorgia
— Mark Clayton (@MarkClaytonFCDO) February 23, 2021
Nika Melia rejected the charges against him for “organizing mass violence” during the anti-government protests in 2019, saying they were political in nature.
Concern of the international community
The order to arrest Nika Melia has deepened a political crisis that has plagued the Caucasus nation since the parliamentary elections last October. Opposition parties claimed the ballot was rigged after the Georgian Dream claimed a narrow victory. In the wake of Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation, they called for early elections.
Last week, the United States and the European Union expressed concern over the decision to arrest an opposition leader, calling on the Georgian government to resolve the crisis peacefully and ensure that its judicial system remains free from any political bias.
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