A violent raid, transcribed live by Georgian television. Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia was removed from his party’s headquarters in Tbilisi on Tuesday by police who did not hesitate to use force. The scene unfolded against a backdrop of tension, with Georgia plunged into a political crisis since the parliamentary elections last year. The opposition now calls for demonstrations against this arrest and demand the release of Nika Melia.
Nika Melia, head of the United National Movement (MNU), has been remanded in custody, according to images broadcast live by Mtavari television. Hundreds of riot police then used tear gas against his supporters and leaders of all opposition parties who have been camping outside the building for nearly a week. Dozens of opposition supporters were also arrested.
The police operation comes after the resignation last Thursday of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who cited a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of a court order to place Nika Melia in pretrial detention. The raid sparked outrage from the opposition and warnings from the Western allies of the former Soviet country.
Did the police steal computer equipment?
One of the MNU’s leaders, Giorgi Pataraia, claims that the police also “stole computer servers” inside the party’s headquarters. In a statement, the Georgian Ministry of the Interior denies it, retorting that the police used “proportionate force and used special means” during this operation.
“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.”
The order to arrest Nika Melia, 41, has deepened a political crisis that has raged in the Caucasus nation since the October legislative elections. Opposition parties claimed that the ballot was rigged after the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, claimed a narrow victory. In the wake of the Prime Minister’s resignation on Thursday, the opposition called for early elections.
Nika Melia is accused of having organized “mass violence” during the large-scale protests that rocked the country for nearly a week in 2019 and faces nine years in prison. He rejects these accusations and considers them to be political in nature.
Irakli Garibachvili, a new Prime Minister with an obscure profile
On Monday, Parliament confirmed the appointment as Prime Minister of Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili. During a speech to the deputies, the latter indicated that the government was going to arrest Nika Melia, saying that he “would not succeed in escaping justice”.
The new prime minister is considered a staunch supporter of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream Party and the richest man in the country. He is suspected of controlling the 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, the United States and the European Union expressed concern over the decision to arrest an opposition leader, calling on the Georgian government to resolve the crisis peacefully and ensure that its judicial system remains free from any political bias.
In power since 2012, the Georgian Dream Party has seen its popularity decline amid economic stagnation and accusations of undermining democratic principles in this former Soviet republic.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr