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Georgian police violently arrested opponent Nika Melia on Tuesday and used tear gas in a violent raid on his party headquarters, further exacerbating the political crisis sparked by the contested parliamentary elections last year.

An opposition leader was arrested Tuesday (February 23) by Georgian police in a violent raid on his party’s headquarters in a country plunged into political crisis since the 2020 parliamentary elections, according to live footage from the Mtavari television.

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.

Teargas

Hundreds of riot police then used tear gas against his supporters and leaders of all opposition parties who have camped outside the building since Wednesday.

Dozens of opposition supporters were also arrested.

The police operation follows the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on Thursday, who cited a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of a court order to place Nika Melia in pre-trial detention.

The raid sparked outrage from the opposition and warnings from the Western allies of the former Soviet country.

“Violence” and “chaos” in Tbilisi

“Shocked by the scenes at MNU headquarters this morning,” British Ambassador Mark Clayton wrote on Twitter. “Violence and chaos in Tbilisi is the last thing Georgia needs right now. I urge all parties to act with restraint, now and in the days to come.”

Nika Melia rejected the charges against him for “organizing mass violence” during the anti-government protests in 2019, saying they were political in nature.

The order to arrest Nika Melia has deepened a political crisis that has plagued the Caucasus nation since the October 2020 parliamentary elections.

International concerns

Opposition parties claimed the ballot was rigged after the Georgian Dream claimed a narrow victory. In the wake of Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation, they called for early elections.

Last week, the United States and the European Union expressed concern over the move to arrest an opposition leader, calling on the Georgian government to resolve the crisis peacefully and ensure its justice system remains free from any political bias.

With AFP