Thousands demonstrate: opposition leaders arrested in Georgia

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Thousands demonstrate
Opposition leaders arrested in Georgia

The parliamentary elections in Georgia last year caused political tensions in the country: The opposition is assuming election manipulation. Now the situation is getting worse – opposition leader Melia is arrested in Tbilisi. Thousands of supporters demonstrate and call for new elections.

After the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia in Georgia, thousands of his supporters demonstrated in the capital Tbilisi. The demonstrators gathered in front of the government headquarters and called for early elections. The arrest of Melias exacerbated the government crisis in the Caucasus republic, and several Western states condemned the government's actions.

When the politician was arrested, the security forces used tear gas against his supporters, who had gathered at the headquarters of his United National Movement (UNM) party. The chairmen of the other opposition parties also met there. Numerous demonstrators were arrested.

The leader of the opposition party Lelo, Mamuka Khazaradze, called for a "peaceful, steadfast struggle in defense of Georgian democracy". The release of the "political prisoners and new elections" are the only way out of the crisis, he said.

"One step back"

The US Embassy in Tbilisi expressed "concern about the government's decision to arrest the leader of the main opposition party". Georgia has "taken a step back" on its way to "becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of states".

"The logic of the escalation is gaining the upper hand," warned the EU ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell. The British Ambassador to Georgia, Mark Clayton, said he was "shocked" by the events in Tbilisi. "Violence and chaos are the last thing Georgia needs now," he wrote on the online service Twitter.

The chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, Irakli Kobakhidze, defended the arrest. "Polarization is a consequence of criminals in politics," he said on television.

Up to nine years in prison

Melia is accused of inciting violence during protests critical of the government in 2019. On Wednesday last week, a court ordered him to be detained. The opposition leader rejects the allegations and faces up to nine years in prison.

In the past few days, the dispute over the criminal prosecution of the politician had sparked a government crisis in Georgia. Prime Minister Giorgi Gacharia resigned on Thursday and his successor, Irakli Garibashvili, was sworn in on Monday. He is considered a loyal confidante of the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, who does not hold any public office in Georgia, but is considered the country's most influential political figure.

Political tensions have persisted since the parliamentary election last October, which the opposition describes as manipulated. The ruling Georgian Dream party won a narrow victory. However, several opposition MPs refused to take up their seats in parliament and are calling for new elections.

. (tagsToTranslate) politics (t) Georgia (t) democracy (t) opposition