Georgian police have stormed the party offices of opposition leader Nika Melia and detained him days after the prime minister resigned after a disagreement over whether to take the prominent politician into custody.
Live television footage showed Melia, the leader of the United National Movement (UNM), the country’s main opposition party, being dragged from his party headquarters to be placed in pre-trial detention early on Tuesday.
Hundreds of riot police used tear gas against his supporters who camped out in the building, images broadcast by Mtavari TV showed. Dozens of opposition backers were detained.
Footage from inside UNM offices published by the Sputnik Georgia media outlet showed Melia barricaded inside a room with some of his supporters, while opposition activists clashed with police on the street.
A Tbilisi court last week ruled to place Melia – who is accused of organising “mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019 – in pre-trial detention.
“We call on both the representatives of political parties and their supporters to protest in a peaceful manner to refrain from violent actions and not interfere with the court’s decision,” Sputnik Georgia quoted the interior ministry as saying, referring to the order to have Melia detained.
The ministry added in a statement that “police used proportional force and special means” in the police operation.