Police Storm UNM Office, Detain Nika Melia

Police detained Nika Melia, the largest opposition party leader, in the early morning of February 23 during a special operation at the United National Movement headquarters.

Law enforcers stormed the office building where Melia, fellow opposition leaders and supporters have been gathered following the Court’s February 17 order for pretrial detention.

Varying media reports said police used either tear gas or pepper spray when entering Melia’s cabinet by force, as live footage showed opposition supporters coughing.

“This is the end of this government. We are firm and united in our faith,” Melia asserted in the moments ahead of his detention. The opposition leader called PM Garibashvili and Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili “traitors,” adding that “no Georgian should be tried in court” for protesting a Russian MP’s presence in the country’s legislature.

The Interior Ministry said it used  “proportional force and special means” during the operation, arguing opposition supporters “resisted” law enforcers despite “numerous warnings.” Officers also detained 21 persons, including UNM member Giorgi Baramidze,  under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving disobedience of police orders. The Ministry confirmed later that police seized computer servers from the party headquarters.


Co-Chair of the Georgia Caucus at the U.S. House of Representatives Adam Kinzinger said he was very concerned with the raid, warning that tabling the Georgia Support Act in the House “is not something that is automatic.”

“Using gas and violence like Putin once. Ivanishvili regime should pay the price!” Seimas Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Žygimantas Pavilionis said, dubbing Melia’s arrest as an “attack” on democracy. The senior Lithuanian lawmaker visited Georgia over the weekend, in an attempt to help solve the political crisis and prevent the opposition leader’s detention.

Earlier developments

The special operation came few hours after the election of new PM Irakli Garibashvili, who vowed during his confirmation hearing yesterday to “establish order in the country and return a number of destructive forces to the constitutional order and framework.” Garibashvili dubbed Melia as “criminal” and warned that he would not escape justice.

The ruling Georgian Dream party selected Garibashvili as Giorgi Gakharia’s replacement, who resigned on February 18 citing disagreement with his colleagues on the UNM Chair’s detention.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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