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Georgian police storm opposition party offices, detain its leader

Georgian police have stormed the party places of work of opposition leader Nika Melia and detained him days after the prime minister resigned after a disagreement over whether or not to take the distinguished politician into custody.

Live tv footage confirmed Melia, the leader of the United National Movement (UNM), the nation’s essential opposition party, being dragged from his party headquarters to be positioned in pre-trial detention early on Tuesday.

Hundreds of riot police used tear fuel towards his supporters who camped out within the constructing, pictures broadcast by Mtavari TV confirmed. Dozens of opposition backers had been detained.

Footage from inside UNM places of work printed by the Sputnik Georgia media outlet confirmed Melia barricaded inside a room with a few of his supporters, whereas opposition activists clashed with police on the road.

A Tbilisi court docket final week dominated to put Melia – who’s accused of organising “mass violence” throughout anti-government protests in 2019 – in pre-trial detention.

“We call on both the representatives of political parties and their supporters to protest in a peaceful manner to refrain from violent actions and not interfere with the court’s decision,” Sputnik Georgia quoted the inside ministry as saying, referring to the order to have Melia detained.

The ministry added in an announcement that “police used proportional force and special means” within the police operation.

‘Freedom-loving Georgian people’

Georgia has been within the grip of a political disaster since final October’s parliamentary elections, which opposition events have denounced as rigged.

“In no case they can prevent freedom-loving Georgian people protesting … This is the end of the regime. They will not maintain power with the support of this strong special forces,” stated Melia.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who resigned final week over the court docket ruling, stated arresting the opposition leader might result in the additional escalation of the political disaster and threaten the wellbeing of the nation’s residents.

News of the plan to detain Melia sparked outrage among the many opposition and warnings from the ex-Soviet nation’s Western allies.

“Shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters this morning,” British ambassador Mark Clayton wrote on Twitter. “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.”

In the wake of Gakharia’s resignation, the opposition known as for snap parliamentary polls.

Last week, the United States and the European Union known as on Georgia’s authorities to resolve the disaster peacefully and to make sure its judicial system stays freed from political bias.

Melia, 41, has dismissed the costs laid towards him of “organising mass violence” throughout anti-government protests in 2019 as politically motivated.

In energy since 2012, Georgian Dream party has seen its reputation fall over its failure to deal with financial stagnation and perceived backsliding on commitments to democracy.

Melia’s detention order has raised the stakes within the disaster over the disputed elections. Opposition members have refused to take up their seats within the new parliament in a boycott that weighs closely on the ruling party’s political legitimacy.

Georgian safety officers detain an opposition supporter after storming the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party workplace in Tbilisi on Tuesday [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

Georgia’s new Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who was confirmed by parliament on Monday, stated in an handle to legislators his authorities would proceed with Melia’s arrest, saying the politician “will not manage to hide from justice”.

Garibashvili is a loyal lieutenant of the highly effective oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili who’s extensively seen as the person in cost in Georgia, regardless of having no official political position.

Analysts stated the spiralling political disaster in Georgia is fraught with severe penalties for the fledgling democracy and is unlikely to be resolved and not using a larger diplomatic engagement from Tbilisi’s Western allies.

Matthew Bryza, a senior fellow at US think-tank the Atlantic Council, stated Georgia’s “backward movement in terms of democracy” underneath Georgian Dream reached the purpose the place “opposition parties say they can’t take their seats in parliament because the democratic system in Georgia is broken”.

“Without a greater Western mediation, the situation could become very dangerous,” stated the previous diplomat who coordinated the US Caucasus coverage within the administration of ex-President George W Bush.

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Updated on February 26, 2021 8:48 pm

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