Georgian PM resigns in support of opposition leader barricaded inside party HQ amid dramatic police raid following court ruling

A fresh political crisis has broken out in Tbilisi as Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced he would resign, citing disagreements with authorities over attempts to detain a prominent opposition leader on criminal charges.

At a briefing with journalists on Thursday, Gakharia said that a court order to arrest the head of the country’s largest bloc for inciting protests risked further political unrest. According to him, Nika Melia is “a person who has never particularly honored Georgian legislation and… called on our citizens to storm parliament.”

However, he added, “my firm position is that it is unacceptable to administer justice to someone, even if it is legal, when it creates a risk to the health and lives of our citizens or has the possibility of political escalation.”

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After a court in the capital ordered Melia’s arrest for his alleged role in organizing the 2019 demonstrations, the opposition figure and members of his party, the United National Movement, barricaded themselves in their headquarters awaiting the arrival of special forces. Activists said that they would use physical force to prevent his detention, as police cars pulled up outside the offices.

Melia’s party, along with the vast majority of opposition groups, are currently boycotting their seats in the country’s parliament over claims that elections last year were rigged. They insist that Gakharia’s ruling Georgian Dream secured its majority through bribery, intimidation and falsification.

After news broke of Gakharia’s resignation, the country’s Interior Ministry said that it would postpone attempts to arrest Melia.

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