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Georgian opposition leader arrested amid political crisis

Georgian police have arrested opposition leader Nikanor Melia, the country’s ministry of internal affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.

A video published by the state-owned First TV channel appeared to show police raiding the United National Movement’s (UNM) headquarters in Tbilisi to arrest Melia, dispersing party staff members with pepper spray. The opposition leader had ensconced himself in the building after a court ordered his detention over allegations he had breached bail terms.

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The arrest came after Irakli Garibashvili was sworn in as Georgia’s new prime minister on Monday, following the unexpected resignation of his predecessor Giorgi Gakharia last week over Melia’s planned detention.

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A UNM statement said the arrest “marks a tragic moment for Georgian democracy,” and called upon the international community to help deescalate the situation.

The U.S. embassy, which called for “restraint” after Gakharia resigned, issued a security alert for its staff to avoid potential “violent demonstration activity.”

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