In the midst of a domestic political crisis, the arrest of a key opposition politician in the South Caucasus Republic of Georgia sparked new protests. Hundreds of people demanded the release of Nika Melia from the United National Movement (UNM) in front of the State Chancellery in the capital Tbilisi on Tuesday, as a reporter from the German Press Agency reported. Melia is accused of being behind the attempted storming of parliament in June 2019.
Georgia has been in a domestic political crisis since the parliamentary elections at the end of October. The opposition, which regards the renewed victory of the ruling Georgian Dream party as manipulated, is boycotting the work of the new parliament and calling for new elections. There were always mass protests. Most recently, after just over two months in office, Prime Minister Giorgi Gacharia resigned in the dispute over the planned arrest of Melias. The new head of government is the former Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
Melia, who has now been arrested, is chairman of the party of former President Mikhail Saakashvili, who was sentenced to several years in prison for abuse of office after being voted out of office in 2013. The arrest of the opposition party was stormy, as can be seen on video recordings. Police officers used pepper spray in the party rooms, injuring a total of 17 people and arresting more than 20.
“The political crisis is deepening,” said the EU ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, worried on Twitter. He called on both sides to act responsibly.
Melia is accused of inciting violence during protests critical of the government in 2019. Last Wednesday, a court ordered the politician to be arrested. Melia denies the allegations. He faces up to nine years in prison.
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