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Georgian police storm opposition HQ to arrest leader Nika Melia

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Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement opposition party speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, in October, 2020.
Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement opposition party speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, in October, 2020.   -   Copyright  VANO SHLAMOV/AFP or licensors
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Demonstrators set up tents outside Georgia's parliament building and blocked the capital’s main avenue Tuesday to protest the arrest of the leader of the country's main opposition party.

Georgian police stormed the party's headquarters in the early hours to arrest its chairman Nika Melia.

A Tbilisi court last week ruled to place Melia, who is accused of organizing “mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019, in pre-trial detention.

The political situation in Georgia has been tense amid allegations of voter fraud in the country's fall parliamentary election. The opposition is demanding a rerun of the vote.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who resigned last week over the court ruling to arrest Melia, said arresting the opposition leader could lead to further escalation of political crisis and threaten the well-being of the country’s citizens.

Supporters of the opposition parties spent the night at the United National Movement headquarters in a bid to prevent Melia's detention.

Police used tear gas as Melia's supporters attempted to barricade the door of the room where the opposition figure was sheltering. Dozens of opposition supporters were also arrested.

Before the police raid, parliament members named a new prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, to replace the one who opposed arresting Melia because of concern it would escalate the country’s political crisis.

Euronews Georgia correspondent Davit Kekenadze, reporting from the capital, Tbilisi, said the new PM had warned that “justice will be served and Melia won’t be able to hide."

Garibashvili addressed the nation on Tuesday to make plea for unity, saying it was time for "dialogue, not confrontation."

Watch Euronews's full report in the player above.