Fri, 23 Apr 2021

Georgian opposition and civil rights activists have set up nearly a dozen tents in front of the parliament building in the capital, Tbilisi.

Activists spent the night in the tents following street demonstrations in Tbilisi on February 26 to protest a police raid on the headquarters of an opposition party and the arrest of its leader.

Thousands of people, waving Georgian and NATO flags and carrying signs, rallied outside the Georgian parliament building to call for new snap parliamentary elections and the release of political prisoners.

Opposition supporters erected 11 tents in front of the parliament and vowed to continue protests until their demands are met.

Zaal Udumashvili, a leader of the United National Movement (ENM), told reporters on February 27 that the tents were "part of our fight against the regime."

SEE ALSO: Thousands Of Georgians Take To Streets To Protest Opposition Leader's Arrest, Call For Snap Elections

Police have not dispersed the activists but have warned them not to set up tents in Rustaveli Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare.

The protest was sparked by the February 23 police raid at the ENM headquarters in Tbilisi. Nika Melia, the leader of the movement, as well as several activists were arrested.

More than a dozen people were injured during the raid as police sprayed what appeared to be chemical irritants into the offices where party leaders -- as well as representatives of other opposition parties -- had been shielding Melia for several days.

Police accuse Melia of inciting violence at anti-government protests during the summer of 2019. Melia has dismissed the charges against him as politically motivated.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, joined counterparts from Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and the Czech Republic in expressing concerns about "destabilizing and antidemocratic actions" in Georgia.

SEE ALSO: Key Senator, U.S. Allies Express Concerns Over 'Destabilizing' Actions In Georgia

International rights group Amnesty International called the heavy use of force to take Melia into custody before a court has heard his appeal against pretrial detention a troubling indicator.

Georgia, a former Soviet Republic, is a close U.S. ally and has aspirations of joining NATO and the European Union, although membership in either organization is not imminent.

With reporting by Interfax

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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