Georgian police on Tuesday (February 23) arrested an opposition leader in a violent raid on his party’s headquarters in a country plunged into a political crisis since the parliamentary elections last year. 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 been camping outside the building since February 17. Dozens of his supporters were also arrested.
→ ANALYSIS. In Georgia, political crisis after the resignation of the Prime Minister
The police operation made following the resignation of the Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia. On leaving, the head of state cited a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of a court order to place Nika Melia in pre-trial detention. The latter rejects the charges against him for “Organization of mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019, believing the gatherings to be political in nature.
Call for early elections
In the wake of Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation, opposition parties called for early elections, arguing that the 2020 legislative elections had been rigged. The order to arrest Niko Melia further aggravates this political crisis.
→ IN 2019. Georgia: the opposition wants to bring down the government in the streets
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.