Police detained 20 pro-opposition activists after physical confrontation between law enforcement officers and activists over installing protest tents outside the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare.
The Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed to Civil.ge that the activists were detained under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving disobedience of police orders. According to media reports, police seized a tent in the lead up to the skirmishes.
Reacting to the skirmishes, the Public Defender of Georgia said installing temporary constructions is protected under the freedom of assembly, adding that the seizure of the tents is “unjustified.” “It in incumbent on the police to refrain from artificially escalating the situation during the assembly,” the Ombudsperson noted.
The skirmishes come with tensions running high in the Georgian capital as Nika Melia, chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, is facing pre-trial detention over his failure to pay increased bail in June 20-21, 2019 anti-Russian occupation unrest case. Opposition leaders and UNM supporters fortified in the UNM headquarters said they would resist Melia’s detention.
PM Gakharia resigned on February 18 over disagreement with the ruling Georgian Dream party on Melia’s detention. Former PM, incumbent defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili, known for his scathing criticism of the UNM and the opposition is GD’s candidate to again head the government.