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Police arrest Georgian opposition leader after storming party HQ | Georgia

Georgian police have stormed the nation’s opposition party headquarters and arrested their leader, escalating a political disaster within the former Soviet nation that authorities critics say dangers a descent into authoritarianism.

In a dramatic morning raid, riot police stormed the headquarters of the United Nationwide Motion (UNM), utilizing teargas and batons as they arrested its leader, Nika Melia, on legal prices and detained at the very least a dozen extra.

Footage broadcast on Georgian tv confirmed Melia being dragged from the constructing. He’s charged with inciting violence at 2019 anti-government demonstrations when protesters stormed parliament and faces 9 years in jail. His supporters have stated that the costs are politically motivated.

The disaster pits supporters of the UNM, the opposition party based by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, towards the dominant Georgian Dream, the ruling party based by the billionaire and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The raid deepened a disaster in Georgia that started following disputed parliamentary election outcomes final 12 months, which nominally resulted in resounding victory for Georgian Dream. UNM has boycotted the brand new parliament.

The choice to arrest Melia triggered misgivings amongst authorities supporters. Giorgi Gakharia, a member of Georgian Dream, resigned as prime minister final week over a courtroom determination to arrest Melia, saying that it may result in protests and hurt the wellbeing of the nation’s residents.

In his place, Georgian Dream nominated Irakli Garibashvili, a former defence minister and ally of Ivanishvili, who shortly ordered the arrest of Melia at his party headquarters. After the raid, Garibashvili referred to as Melia “an extraordinary legal” and requested: “When did the political party grow to be a secure haven for such criminals?”

People attend a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Nika Melia in front of Georgia’s government building in Tbilisi.
Individuals attend a rally in assist of jailed opposition leader Nika Melia in entrance of Georgia’s authorities constructing in Tbilisi. {Photograph}: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

The escalation has compelled western international locations to intervene – at the very least verbally – calling on each the opposition and the federal government to train restraint and keep away from risking a political standoff that might descend into bloodshed.

Georgia, which fought a brief warfare with Russia in 2008, is a crucial ally within the Caucasus area to america and the EU. The nation has sought to affix the Nato navy alliance and has obtained billions of {dollars} of assist for its navy, democratic establishments and civil society.

“Shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters this morning,” Mark Clayton, the UK ambassador to Tbilisi, wrote in a tweet. “Violence and chaos in Tbilisi are the very last thing Georgia wants proper now. I urge all sides to behave with restraint, now and within the coming days.”

The USA embassy had beforehand issued a “name on the authorities and the opposition to train most restraint within the wake of tonight’s ruling. Violence serves nobody besides those that wish to undermine Georgia’s stability. This have to be resolved peacefully.”

Georgian police officers defended Tuesday’s raid, saying they used “proportional power” towards the opposition members.

A UNM leader informed Agence France-Presse that police had additionally “stolen laptop servers” from the party’s headquarters.

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