Protests in Tbilisi after special forces arrest of opposition leader. Photo report
Thousands of people gathered in the afternoon of February 23 in the center of Tbilisi for a protest announced by the united opposition after a special operation was carried out early in the morning and the leader of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, was arrested.
Special forces stormed the office of the opposition party at about 7 a.m., where approximately two dozen people had gathered.
The capture of UNM chair Melia took place with the use of special equipment and tear gas. More than 20 activists were detained during the operation. Servers from the United National Movement office were also confiscated.
The protest rally began at the building of the Georgian government with the performance of the national anthem of Georgia. Opposition leaders announced two main demands on the government: release Nika Melia and call snap elections.
Then the protesters moved to Rustaveli Avenue to the parliament building.
Protesters holding banners with the words: “Georgia will not return to the Soviet Union.”
The EU Ambassador to Georgia Karl Hartzel made a statement in connection with the political crisis in Georgia: “The logic of escalation prevails, the political crisis is getting worse. All parties must take responsibility and act in the interests of the country and the people of Georgia. Trying to find a common language should not be abandoned.”
Nika Melia was visited by representatives of the Public Defender, it is reported that his state of health is normal.
“Pre-trial detention cannot be used as a form of punishment, it should be used only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the accused is hiding or destroying evidence. We are not aware of such circumstances. International partners have warned the government that this development is alienating the country from its Western partners and leading to a dead end. I call on the authorities to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation. One of such steps would be the release of Nika Melia,” said Public Defender Nino Lomjaria.
“The government needs to find legal instruments as soon as possible and release Nika Melia from prison. And then take effective steps and prevent the country from entering the most complex spiral of confrontation”, said former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Activists have begun to set up tents in front of parliament and intend to hold an indefinite protest until the demands are met.