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Georgian Authorities Arrest Opposition Leader Melia


FILE - Opposition MP Nika Melia speaks to reporters outside the Tbilisi City Court, in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 27, 2019.

Georgian police raided the main opposition party’s headquarters Tuesday and arrested opposition leader Nika Melia.

Authorities accuse Melia, head of the United National Movement party, of organizing “mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019.

Melia says the charges are politically motivated.

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia expressed concern about Melia’s detention, saying in a statement Tuesday that Georgia “has moved backward on its path toward becoming a stronger democracy.”

“We regret that the call of the United States and other international partners for restraint and dialogue was ignored,” the embassy said. “We are dismayed by the polarizing rhetoric from Georgia’s leadership at a time of crisis. Force and aggression are not the solution to resolving Georgia’s political differences.”

The country has seen rounds of protests since parliamentary elections in October that the opposition says were rigged, an allegation the ruling Georgian Dream party denies.

Last week, Prime Minister Giorgia Gakharia resigned and said his decision was linked to a disagreement about whether to detain Melia.