Thousands Rally In Georgia After Opposition Chief's Arrest
Sumaira FH 2 months ago Fri 26th February 2021 | 08:09 PM
Thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the Georgian capital Friday to demand early elections after the arrest of a top opposition leader
Tbilisi, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 26th Feb, 2021 ) :Thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the Georgian capital Friday to demand early elections after the arrest of a top opposition leader.
Georgia plunged deeper into political crisis following this week's arrest of Nika Melia -- the leader of the country's main opposition force, the United National Movement (UNM), and a violent police raid on the party headquarters.
"I am in prison, but I am free," Melia wrote in an address to demonstrators read out at the rally.
"We are fighting for freedom and we will prevail in this struggle." Supporters said they were energised by Melia's resolve.
Nata Shavishvili, 46, said Melia had become "an icon of Georgians' aspirations to build a democratic, European country." Ex-Soviet Georgia has faced political turmoil since parliamentary elections in October that the opposition said was rigged to give the ruling party a narrow victory.
Opposition members have refused to enter the new parliament in a boycott that weighs heavily on the ruling party's legitimacy.
- 'Democratic setback' - Melia, a 41-year-old who has united Georgia's traditionally divided opposition forces, his prosecution on charges of "organising mass violence" during anti-government protests in 2019 as politically motivated.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned over plans to arrest Melia, warning it would escalate tensions, but police moved in anyway and detained him on Tuesday.
More protests have been announced for the coming weeks.
"The protest movement will continue until the ruling party liberates all political prisoners and calls snap elections," a leader of the opposition Lelo party, Badri Japaridze, told reporters on Friday.
The United States led a chorus of international condemnation against Melia's arrest, saying the move was a setback for pro-Western Georgia "on its path toward becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations".