World Georgia: calls to demonstrate after the arrest of an opposition leader

11:50  23 february  2021
11:50  23 february  2021 Source:   lepoint.fr

Georgia PM resigns over move to arrest opposition leader

  Georgia PM resigns over move to arrest opposition leader Georgia's prime minister resigned Thursday over plans to arrest a top opposition leader, deepening a political crisis that has gripped the Caucasus nation since elections last year. The interior ministry said it had "temporarily postponed the planned detention" of Melia in connection with the prime minister's resignation.Giorgi Gakharia, a 45-year-old with the ruling Georgian Dream party who was prime minister since 2019, said he was stepping down because of disagreement in the government over enforcing a court order to arrest Nika Melia.

  Géorgie: appels à manifester après l'arrestation d'un chef de l'opposition © Supplied by Le Point

The opposition called on Tuesday to demonstrate in Georgia after the muscular arrest of a political figure of foreground, a measure that risks aggravating the political crisis underway in this Caucasian country since the legislative elections in October.

Nika Melia, leader of the main Georgian opposition party, the United National Movement (MNU), was extirpated Tuesday morning from the premises of his political party in Tbilisi to be placed in pre-trial detention.

Hundreds of riot police then used tear gas against his supporters and leaders of all opposition parties, who had been camping in front of the building for nearly a week.

Georgian police storm opposition party offices, detain its leader

  Georgian police storm opposition party offices, detain its leader Georgian police arrested Nika Melia and fired tear gas in a raid on his party headquarters.Live television footage showed Melia, the leader of the United National Movement (UNM), the country’s main opposition party, being dragged from his party headquarters to be placed in pre-trial detention early on Tuesday.

Dozens of opposition supporters were also arrested during this operation, which was immediately denounced by the American and British allies of Georgia.

"Proportionate use of force"

The Georgian Ministry of the Interior retorted that the police had made "proportionate use of force and used special means" during this operation.

The leader of the Lelo party, Mamouka Khazaradze, opposed to the government, for his part called for "a peaceful and tireless fight to defend Georgian democracy."

"The release of political prisoners and early parliamentary elections represent the only possible way out of the crisis," he told the press.

On behalf of the opposition parties, he called for demonstrations in front of the seat of government.

Tear gas as Georgia opposition leader is arrested

  Tear gas as Georgia opposition leader is arrested Dramatic video shows Nika Melia barricaded in a room with supporters as police raid his party's HQ.They used tear gas to disperse his supporters, some of whom had barricaded themselves inside with their leader.

The police operation comes after the resignation Thursday of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who cited a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of the judicial decision to place Mr. Melia in detention.

The latter is accused of having organized "mass violence" during large-scale demonstrations in 2019. He faces nine years in prison and rejects these accusations, which he considers to be political in nature.

The American embassy said in a statement "deeply concerned" by the arrest of Nika Melia.

"Strength and aggressiveness are not the solution to resolve political differences in Georgia. Today the country has stepped back on the path that should lead it to become a stronger democracy in the family of Euro-nations. Atlantic, ”the Embassy added.

On Twitter , British Ambassador Mark Clayton said he was "shocked by the scenes at MNU headquarters this morning".

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"Broken democratic system"

The arrest of Mr. Melia, 41, could further weaken democracy in Georgia, which has been facing a political crisis latent since the legislative elections in October.

Opposition parties claimed the ballot was rigged after the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, claimed a narrow victory.

On Monday, the Parliament confirmed the appointment as Prime Minister of the Minister of Defense, Irakli Garibashvili. The latter then immediately indicated that the government was going to arrest Mr. Melia, saying that he "would not succeed in escaping justice".

The new Prime Minister is seen as a loyal supporter of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream Party and the richest man in the country, suspected of controlling power behind the scenes.

For expert Matthew Bryza, from the American think tank Atlantic Council, Georgia has reached a point where "the opposition parties say they can no longer sit in Parliament because the Georgian democratic system is broken".

"Without greater mediation from the West, the situation could become very dangerous," adds this former diplomat.

Last week, United States and the European Union expressed their concern over the decision to arrest Nika Melia, calling on the Georgian government to resolve the crisis peacefully.

In power since 2012, the Georgian Dream Party has seen its popularity decline against a backdrop of economic stagnation and accusations of undermining democratic principles in this former Soviet republic.

23/02/2021 10:23:51 - Tbilisi ( AFP ) - © 2021 AFP

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