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Hundreds protest after Georgia police detain opposition leader Melia

CA, 24 Feb 2021
Hundreds of people massed outside parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday to protest opposition leader Nika Melia's detention. One protester held up a sign calling for a snap election, the government's resignation and freedom for "political prisoners." A United National Movement (UNM) party member also called for a large-scale protest on Feb. 26, the Rustavi 2 media outlet reported.

Police stormed the party offices of Melia and detained him Tuesday morning, deepening a political crisis that prompted the prime minister to resign last week.

Melia's supporters had barricaded themselves in the offices, using furniture to block the doors. Police surged into the building during the early morning raid, including using firefighting ladders to gain access via the roof. Seventeen people were hurt, the Interfax news agency reported.

Melia, the UNM party's chairman, has been accused of inciting violence at street protests in June 2019, a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.

The U.S. Embassy said it was deeply concerned by Melia's detention and expressed regret that its call for restraint and dialog had been ignored.

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