Georgia PM resigns over plans to arrest opposition leader

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Feb 18, 2021, 01:25 PM(IST)

(File photo) Georgia PM Giorgi Gakharia Photograph:( AFP )

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He was resigning because of disagreement in the government over enforcing a court order to arrest Nika Melia

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned on Thursday. He stepped down over plans to arrest a top opposition leader. He said it risked escalating a political crisis.

Gakharia said he was resigning because of disagreement in the government over enforcing a court order to arrest Nika Melia. He said that to do so would "pose a risk to the health and lives of our citizens and increase political polarisation in the country."

"It is inadmissible to enforce a judiciary decision... if that poses a risk to the health and lives of our citizens or creates the possibility of a political escalation in the country."

A court in Georgia on Wednesday ruled to place Melia in pre-trial detention.

Melia, who faces up to nine years behind bars if found guilty of "organising mass violence" during anti-government protests in 2019, has rejected the charges as politically motivated. 

The move to arrest Melia -- chairman of the country's main opposition force, the United National Movement (UNM) -- raised the stakes in a political crisis that has gripped Georgia since parliamentary elections in October.

The opposition denounced the polls as rigged after the ruling Georgian Dream party claimed victory.

Leaders of nearly all of the country's opposition parties gathered Wednesday at the UNM party headquarters in the capital Tbilisi ahead of the trial, vowing to obstruct police if they moved to arrest Melia.

Georgian television stations on Wednesday night aired footage of riot police mobilising close to the UNM headquarters.

In a statement ahead of the trial, the European Union envoy to Georgia described the circumstances surrounding Melia's prosecution as a "dangerous trajectory for Georgia and for Georgian democracy."

The US embassy in Tbilisi said on Twitter that the crisis "must be resolved peacefully", urging both the government and the opposition to show restraint.

(With AFP inputs)

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