Western countries on Tuesday condemned the violent arrest of Georgian opposition leader Nick Melia. In the Caucasus country, the uncompromising political struggle between the ruling party “Georgia’s Dream” and opposition forces demanding new elections has been going on for months.
- Special forces detain leaders of the largest opposition party.
- Conflict between Saakashvili’s party and billionaire Ivanishvili’s party.
- Western countries are calling for a dialogue between the government and the opposition.
Police in Georgia’s special task force broke into the office of the country’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement, on Tuesday morning, where the leader of the political force, Nick Melia, had been staying for several days.
There were clashes between Melia’s supporters and law enforcement officers who used tear gas in the building. The police operation ended with the arrest of Melia and 20 others. At least 17 people have been provided with medical assistance, reports the portal “Agenda.ge”.
A Tbilisi court last week sentenced Mel to a pre-trial arrest on charges of inciting violence in 2019 in protests against the government. He sees these accusations as a retaliation by the government.
Melia faces up to nine years in prison. The current crisis highlights the divisions between the opposition party, the United National Movement, founded by former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the ruling Georgian Dream Party, a party founded by billionaire and former Prime Minister Bidzin Ivanishvili.
Melia has been behind bars the day after the Georgian parliament approved Heraklion Garibashvili as prime minister. Shortly before his arrest, Melia called on her supporters not to be afraid and to protest against the government’s actions.
“The freedom-loving Georgian people cannot be barred from protesting. This is the end of the regime. They will not retain power with the help of the Police Task Force, ”said Melia.
Police delayed the detention of an opposition leader for several days due to an unexpected court decision Prime Minister Giorgi Gahariy resigned. He stated that Melia’s arrest would further damage the situation in the country.
Opposition party leaders and several hundred opposition supporters gathered in the afternoon at the parliament building in the capital, Tbilisi. The participants demanded Melia’s release and accused the ruling party “Georgia’s Dream” of seizing power. The opposition said it would hold a “large-scale” demonstration on 26 February.
The arrest of a Georgian opposition politician has provoked a negative reaction from the international community.
The European Union Ambassador to Georgia, Karl Harcel, called on all parties involved to show responsibility and a desire to put the interests of the country and the Georgian people first.
The US embassy said Georgia had “taken a step back in its efforts to become a stronger democracy within the Euro-Atlantic family.”
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs called on the Georgian government and opposition to exercise restraint and engage in political dialogue to resolve the political crisis through the social network Twitter.
Had a phone call with Georgian Foreign Minister @DZalkaliani, discussed recent worrying developments in #Georgia, as a true friend Latvia supports democratic #Georgia and its Euro-Atlantic path, I urge for a genuine political dialogue between the government and the opposition
– Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) February 23, 2021
“I had a telephone conversation with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani; we discussed the worrying events in Georgia. Latvia, as a true friend, supports democratic Georgia and its Euro-Atlantic path. I call for a real political dialogue between the government and the opposition,” writes Rinkēvičs (New Unity).
Georgia’s former British ambassador to Britain, Giorgi Badridze, believes that only new elections can bring the country out of the stalemate.
“We risk destabilizing the situation even further. Instead of tackling real problems, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and moving faster to join NATO and the European Union, we are engaging in internal struggles. Georgia simply cannot afford it, “Badridze told TRT World.
The parliament controlled by the ruling party “Georgia’s Dream” on Monday supported the appointment of Heraklion Garibashvili as Prime Minister. His appointment as head of government does not indicate a desire on the partisan party to engage in dialogue with the opposition. Garibashvili has previously called the United National Movement a “criminal force” and NGOs foreign agents.
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