Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Georgia: Opposition leader arrested in violent police operation


Posted

Nika Melia, the leader of the main opposition party in Georgia, has been remanded in custody after a violent raid on his training headquarters.

Nika Melia on February 17, 2021.

AFP

Georgian police arrested an opposition leader on Tuesday in a violent raid on his party’s headquarters in a country plunged into political crisis since last year’s parliamentary elections, according to live television footage Mtavari. Nika Melia, the leader of Georgia’s main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), was taken out of his political party’s premises to be remanded in custody.

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.

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 remand Mr 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 ”.

Dismissal of charges

Nika Melia rejected the charges against him for “organizing mass violence” during the anti-government protests in 2019, saying they were political in nature.

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 Mr. 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.

(AFP)





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