Georgian police storm opposition celebration workplaces, detain its chief | Politics Information

Georgian police stormed the party offices of opposition leader Nika Melia and arrested him days after the prime minister resigned after he had disagreed on whether the prominent politician should be taken into custody.

Live television footage showed Melia, the leader of the United National Movement (UNM), the country’s main opposition party, was dragged from his party center for pre-trial detention early Tuesday.

Hundreds of riot police used tear gas against his supporters who camped in the building, images from Mtavari TV showed. Dozens of opposition supporters were arrested.

Footage from UNM offices released by the media company Sputnik Georgia showed Melia being barricaded in a room with some of his supporters while opposition activists clashed with police on the street.

A Tbilisi court ruled last week to arrest Melia – who is accused of organizing “mass violence” during the 2019 anti-government protests – on remand.

“We call on the representatives of the political parties as well as their supporters to protest in a peaceful manner in order to refrain from violent actions and not to interfere with the decision of the court,” quoted Sputnik Georgia, quoting the Ministry of the Interior, referring to the order to arrest Melia to let .

The ministry added in a statement that “the police used proportional force and special means in police operations”.

“Freedom-loving Georgians”

Georgia has been in a political crisis since the parliamentary elections last October, which opposition parties labeled as rigged.

“There is no way they can prevent freedom-loving Georgians from protesting… This is the end of the regime. They will not maintain power with the support of these strong special forces, ”Melia said.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who resigned last week over the court ruling, said the opposition leader’s arrest could further escalate the political crisis and threaten the well-being of the country’s citizens.

News of the plan to arrest Melia sparked outrage among the opposition and warnings from the former Soviet country’s western allies.

“Shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters this morning,” wrote British Ambassador Mark Clayton on Twitter. “Violence and chaos in Tbilisi are the last thing Georgia needs at the moment. I urge all sides to act cautiously 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 caution now and in the days to come. @ UKinGeorgia

– Mark Clayton (@MarkClaytonFCDO) February 23, 2021

After Gakharia’s resignation, the opposition called for early parliamentary elections.

Last week the United States and the European Union urged the Georgian government to resolve the crisis peacefully and to ensure that their judicial system remains free from political prejudice.

The 41-year-old Melia dismissed the charges against him of “organizing mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019 as politically motivated.

In power since 2012, the Georgian Dream Party has seen a decline in its popularity as it failed to cope with economic stagnation and perceived a relapse in terms of commitment to democracy.

Melia’s arrest warrant increased the stakes in the crisis because of the controversial elections. Members of the opposition have refused to take their seats in the new parliament in a boycott that puts a heavy strain on the ruling party’s political legitimacy.

Georgian security officials arrest an opposition supporter after storming the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party office in Tbilisi on Tuesday [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]Georgia’s new Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who was ratified by parliament on Monday, said in an address to lawmakers that his government would proceed with Melia’s arrest and said the politician would fail to hide from the judiciary.

Garibashvili is a loyal lieutenant to the powerful oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, widely regarded as the man in charge in Georgia, despite not having an official political role.

Analysts said the deepening political crisis in Georgia is fraught with grave ramifications for the fledgling democracy and is unlikely to be resolved without greater diplomatic engagement from Tbilisi’s western allies.

Matthew Bryza, a senior at the US think tank Atlantic Council, said Georgia’s “backward movement on democracy” under the Georgian Dream has reached the point where “opposition parties say they cannot take their seats in parliament because of the democratic system in.” Georgia is broken ”.

“Without stronger Western mediation, the situation could become very dangerous,” said the former diplomat, who coordinated the policy of the US Caucasus in the administration of ex-President George W. Bush.

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