Home Topics Business Georgians take to the streets to protest the opposition leader's arrest

Georgians take to the streets to protest the opposition leader’s arrest

© Reuters. Opposition supporters hold a rally in Tbilisi

TBILISI (Reuters) – Hundreds took to the streets of the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Friday to demand the release of opposition leader Nika Melia after his detention threatened to exacerbate a political crisis that led to the prime minister’s resignation last week.

Protesters with red and white Georgian flags marched through the city center and gathered outside parliament to protest Melia’s imprisonment and to call for new parliamentary elections after a controversial vote in the South Caucasus last year.

Police arrested Melia, leader of the opposition party of the United National Movement (UNM), on Tuesday after storming her offices and bumping into his supporters.

Melia has been charged with inciting violence during street protests in June 2019, an indictment he dismisses as politically motivated.

The case prompted Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia to resign, warning that Melia’s imprisonment could exacerbate political divisions in the 3.7 million country.

The United States and other Western countries expressed concern about Melia’s detention, saying it could affect the prospect of dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party.

European Council President Charles Michel will visit Georgia next week as part of a three-country visit, which will also include Moldova and Ukraine.

Michel will meet officials such as Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who was elected by parliament on Monday to replace Gakharia, as well as members of the opposition.

Georgian Dream won a parliamentary election last October, but the opposition said the vote was rigged and fraught with violations. Melia said at the time that his party did not see the outcome and asked for it to be repeated.

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