Police in Georgia Storm Opposition Party HQ to Arrest Leader

Riot police stormed the headquarters of the main opposition party in Georgia and arrested its leader Tuesday, deepening the political crisis in the ex-Soviet nation.

Authorities charge Nika Melia, head of the United National Movement, with instigating violence in protests in 2019. He calls the allegations politically motivated. Several thousand UNM supporters marched on parliament and set up tents in protest of the arrest Tuesday.

The U.S. embassy expressed deep concern at the arrest and the government’s apparent rejection of calls for restraint. The European Union’s envoy called for continued efforts to find common ground.

The government, controlled by the Georgian Dream party created by the country’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, defended the arrest as a move to uphold the rule of law, as Melia had removed a monitoring bracelet and failed to make a bail payment. His supporters called it a politically motivated crackdown on opponents.

Police in Georgia Storm Opposition Party HQ to Arrest Leader

The police raid -- which involved dozens of agents using fire-truck ladders, riot shields and pepper spray -- came shortly after parliament confirmed a new prime minister. His predecessor quit in opposition to plans for the arrest last week, saying it would escalate political tensions. UNM has demanded that last fall’s parliamentary elections, in which it boycotted the runoff amid allegations of fraud, be rerun.

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