Update: Turmoil in Georgia after police storm opposition party headquarters and arrest party Chairman

Updated

Opposition supporters have been protesting in the Georgian capital Tbilisi after Georgian special police forces this morning stormed the headquarters of the main opposition party – the United National Movement (UNM) – and arrested its Chairman, Nika Melia.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the main government building this afternoon to protest against the arrest. They later moved to the nearby Parliament building on Rustaveli avenue.

Diplomats and foreign personalities have condemned this morning's operation and called it a step back for Georgia's democratic transition and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

A statement posted on the website of the US Embassy in Tbilisi said

The United States Embassy is deeply concerned by the government’s decision to detain the head of a major opposition political party at the party’s headquarters this morning. We regret that the call of the United States and other international partners for restraint and dialogue was ignored. We are dismayed by the polarizing rhetoric from Georgia’s leadership at a time of crisis. Force and aggression are not the solution to resolving Georgia’s political differences. Today, Georgia has moved backward on its path toward becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.

_______________

Georgian special police forces on Tuesday morning (23 February) stormed the headquarters of the main opposition party – the United National Movement (UNM) –and arrested its Chairman, Nika Melia.

Unconfirmed reports say tear gas and pepper spray was used during the operation as Melia supporters and UNM officials tried to prevent the arrest.

Police were executing a controversial court order after Melia had refused to paid bail following a previous case.

There are reports of clashes between opposition supporters and police during and after the arrest. 

The arrest of Melia is expected to exacerbate an already difficult and tense political situation in the country resulting from an opposition boycott of parliament following claims of fraud in parliamentary elections last October. Last week Georgia's prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia resigned after refusing to carry out the arrest, saying it was untimely. A new prime minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, was formally approved by parliament on Monday (22 February)

source: commonspace.eu 
photo:  Protestors in front of the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on 23 February demanded the release of opposition leader Nika Melia, and the holding of fresh elections (picture courtesy of Inter-press news, Tbilisi)

Related articles

Editor's choice
News
Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell underlined that the European Union will make every effort to support the peace process and to remain a committed partner to the Afghan people. "Of course, we will have to take into account the evolving situation, but disengagement is not an option.  We are clear on that: there is no alternative to a negotiated political settlement, through inclusive peace talks.
Editor's choice
News
Lebanon's military chief says army will collapse without urgent aid

Lebanon's military chief says army will collapse without urgent aid

The commander of the Lebanese armed forces, General Joseph Aoun, appealed to the international community on Thursday (17 June) to support the army, warning that its “collapse” will fuel chaos and insecurity. His statement was addressed to representatives of various states at a French-sponsored conference to support the army. 

Popular

Editor's choice
News
Lebanon's military chief says army will collapse without urgent aid

Lebanon's military chief says army will collapse without urgent aid

The commander of the Lebanese armed forces, General Joseph Aoun, appealed to the international community on Thursday (17 June) to support the army, warning that its “collapse” will fuel chaos and insecurity. His statement was addressed to representatives of various states at a French-sponsored conference to support the army.