18:05 GMT03 March 2021
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    TBILISI (Sputnik) - Georgian police have deployed tear gas at the office of the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, detaining its leader, Nika Melia, and over 10 other activists, the Georgian Internal Ministry said on Tuesday.

    "The decision of Tbilisi City Court Judge - Nino Chakhnashvili announced on 17 February of the current year, to use the norm of detention against Nikanor Melia became known to the public the execution of which has been entrusted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs," the ministry wrote on its website.

    The ministry added that the police warned in advance the UNM members about their plan to detain Melia and urged them not to interfere.

    "Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs warned the citizens gathered at the spot not to obstruct the representatives of the police in the execution of the court decision and were given a reasonable time. Ministry of Internal Affairs would like to call on political party representatives as well as their supporters to protest in a peaceful manner, refrain from violent actions and not to obstruct the representatives of the police in the execution of the court decision," the ministry said.

    According to the Rustavi 2 channel, numerous ambulance and patrol police teams have been mobilized outside the office. The footage shows that many of those present in the office of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's party were in need of medical care.

    United Kingdom's Ambassador to Georgia Mark Clayton condemned the detainment of Melia and called on Georgia's stakeholders to restrain from violence.

    "Shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters this morning. Violence and chaos in Tbilisi are the last thing Georgia needs right now. I urge all sides to act with restraint, now and in the coming days," Clayton wrote on Twitter.

    Melia was briefly arrested for leading riots and anti-Russian protests back in June 2019 and later released on 30,000 Georgian lari ($9,063) bail. He was forced to wear a monitoring bracelet but removed it publicly during another wave of opposition protests, which erupted in November 2020 in non-recognition of the general election results. This prompted the court to revise the conditions of Melia's release and impose a new bail, totaling 40,000 lari. The UNM chairman has refused to pay the bail.

    tear gas, police, opposition, Georgia
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