Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Georgian opposition leader arrested, protesters set up camp

Georgian opposition leader arrested, protesters set up camp

  • Updated
  • 0

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Demonstrators set up tents outside Georgia's parliament building and blocked the capital’s main avenue Tuesday to protest the arrest of the leader of the country's main opposition party.

The demonstration came hours after police stormed the headquarters of the United National Movement and arrested its chairman, lawmaker Nika Melia.

Georgian media reported that about 20 other people were also arrested at the party's headquarters.

The political situation in Georgia has been tense amid allegations of voter fraud in the country's fall parliamentary election. The opposition is demanding a rerun of the vote.

Before the police raid, parliament members named a new prime minister to replace the one who opposed arresting Melia because of concern it would escalate the country’s political crisis.

Melia faces charges of inciting violence during protests that erupted in 2019 when a Russian lawmaker sat in the parliament speaker’s chair during a meeting of lawmakers from Orthodox Christian countries. He had been free on bail.

The new prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, said the politician's arrest was justified.

“We are building a democratic state, and everyone in the country, no matter to their taste and political views, must obey the law,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy voiced its disapproval, saying in a statement: “Today, Georgia has moved backward on its path toward becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.”

“We regret that the call of the United States and other international partners for restraint and dialogue was ignored,” the embassy read.

The European Union appealed for calm.

“We are urging all sides in Georgia to show the necessary restraint, utmost restraint and responsibility, to avoid more escalation in the interest of the country and its people,” European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said.

Salome Samadashvili, a prominent United National Movement member, vowed the protests would continue “until we reach first the release of political prisoners and then early elections later this year, because we need to go back to the chosen path of the Georgian people, which is a European future.”

During the October election, the Georgian Dream party, which has governed Georgia for the last eight years, tallied the largest share of votes at 48%. But opposition parties refused to recognize the results, claiming the count was manipulated.

Georgian Dream was created by Bidzina Ivanishvilli, a tycoon who made his fortune in Russia. But the party's popularity has dwindled steadily amid the country’s economic problems.

Both Georgian Dream and United National Movement are pro-Western and have the stated goals of establishing better relations with possible eventual membership in NATO and the European Union.

But the UNM denounces Ivanishvili's ties to Russia and claims the party pursues pro-Russia policies. The issue is highly contentious in light of a five-day war between Georgia and Russia in 2008 and Russia's control of the separatist Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian dealt a potentially lethal blow Thursday to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Senate Democratic aides said.

  • Updated

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is making a major push to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana after COVID-19 upended the 2020 legislative session, arguing now is the time to finally enact a regulated system that generates new state and local revenue while addressing racial equity issues.

  • Updated

President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally revoked a series of presidential orders and memorandum signed by Donald Trump, including one that sought to cut funding from several cities the 45th president deemed “anarchist” havens and another mandating that federal buildings should be designed in a classical aesthetic.

  • Updated

WASHINGTON (AP) — The increasingly slim odds — and surprisingly thin outreach from the White House — for Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget are raising growing questions about how long the president will stick with her, in an early test of how he will use his limited political capital.

  • Updated

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $7.6 billion coronavirus relief package on Tuesday that will give at least $600 one-time payments to 5.7 million people while setting aside more than $2 billion in grants for struggling small businesses.

  • Updated

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general says the Justice Department must ensure laws are “fairly and faithfully enforced” and the rights of all Americans are protected, while reaffirming an adherence to policies to protect the department’s political independence.

Recommended for you

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.



Breaking News

Breaking Sports News

News Alert