Georgian opposition leader arrested during special op., tear gas used
Chair of the Georgian opposition United National Movement Nika Melia was detained in Tbilisi at 8:50 a.m. this morning during a special operation which included the use of tear gas.
Special forces were unable to enter the party office, as they were not allowed in by the hundreds of opposition supporters inside. The special forces entered the building through the windows using ladders, tear gas was released into the building, after which Melia was seized.
The resistance lasted for about half an hour, the premises in the office were destroyed.
“Today is February 23rd, the Day of the Soviet Army, and Ivanishvili ordered to disperse the civilians. We woke up in Soviet Georgia. This is schizophrenia,” said Gigi Ugulava, spokesman for the European Georgia party.
Nika Melia’s supporters have been at the party’s office around the clock since February 17, when a court issued a warrant for his arrest.
All opposition forces protested the decision, and diplomatic and international organizations have repeatedly appealed to the Georgian authorities to renounce violence against the leader of the opposition.
Traffic around the office of the United National Movement is blocked.
Hundreds of people are still in and around the building – including political leaders of various opposition parties, opposition supporters and activists.
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The political crisis in Georgia began after the October 31 parliamentary elections. The opposition does not recognize the results of these elections and considers them rigged.
The opposition demands early elections and boycotts the work of the tenth parliament. 51 opposition MPs have resigned. Currently, only six opposition members out of 150 parliamentary deputies are present at the meetings, the rest are from the ruling team.
The political crisis escalated with renewed vigor on February 17 after a court sentenced the leader of the main opposition National Movement party, Nika Melia, to pre-trial detention.
Melia has not been convicted, although the prosecution asked the court to detain him. On February 17, the court granted the prosecutor’s motion. Earlier, Melia refused to post bail, saying he believes that his case is politically motivated.
The morning after the court decision, February 18, when Melia was to be detained by law enforcement agencies, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned.
Gakharia said that the reason for his departure was disagreements with the ruling Georgian Dream party – the team demanded the arrest of the opposition leader, while Gakharia believed that Melia’s arrest would aggravate the political crisis in the country.
Following the resignation of Gakharia, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that the detention of the opposition leader has been postponed until a new prime minister and government are elected.
On February 22, parliament approved a new prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, a former defense minister and prime minister. It was after his appointment that the plan to enter the office of the National Movement came into force.