Georgian police in the capital Tbilisi clashed with opposition activists on Friday, a day after the prime minister in the South Caucasus country resigned, the Sputnik Georgia news outlet reported.
Authorities detained 10 activists who had gathered in front of the parliament building and tried to set up tents, RIA Novosti news agency reported Friday.
"Ten people were detained for disobeying police demands," the country's interior ministry said in the statement.
Giorgi Gakharia, who had held the post of prime minister since 2019, said Thursday he was stepping down because of a disagreement with his own team over the detention of Nika Melia, a prominent opposition politician.
"Unfortunately, I could not reach a consensus with my team on this issue. I decided to resign,” the prime minister said, according to remarks carried by The Associated Press (AP). "It is inadmissible to enforce a judiciary decision ... if that poses a risk to the health and lives of our citizens or creates the possibility of a political escalation in the country."
Melia, the chairperson of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, called for early elections following the prime minister's resignation.
On Friday, Georgian opposition parties asked authorities, represented by the ruling Georgian Dream party, to return to the negotiating table to resolve the political crisis in the country.
"The entire opposition spectrum, including the Agmashenebeli Strategy, is ready for negotiations and agreement," said Giorgi Vashadze, leader of the Agmashenebeli Strategy party.
"We are ready to start a dialogue with the Georgian Dream as soon as possible, and this dialogue should end with the start of a reset in the country and the holding of elections," said the leader of the Lelo for Georgia party Mamuka Khazaradze.
Meanwhile, the question of the arrest of Melia remains open.
A Tbilisi court on Wednesday ruled to place Melia, who is accused of organizing "mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019, in pretrial detention after he refused to pay an increased bail fee of $12,000. If convicted, Melia faces nine years in prison. He has rejected the charges as politically motivated. Melia and his supporters from other opposition parties have vowed to resist the arrest, and he denounced the ruling as "unlawful.”
The move to arrest Melia raised the stakes in a political crisis that has gripped Georgia since parliamentary elections in October. The opposition denounced the polls as rigged after the ruling Georgian Dream party claimed victory.
Following Gakharia’s announcement, Georgia's Interior Ministry issued a statement saying they have temporarily postponed detaining Melia. Melia said Gakharia's decision was "to be respected” but was unlikely to defuse political tensions in the country and called for an early parliamentary election.
Melia told journalists Thursday that the opposition was ready for talks on a snap vote.
"Power will change in Georgia peacefully and very soon," he said.
The ruling party's chairperson, Irakli Kobakhidze, said its leadership would decide by Friday on a candidate to take over as prime minister, adding that he "regretted" Gakharia's decision.
"I urge Melia to obey the court decision. Otherwise, the government will enforce the judiciary decision and arrest him," he told a news conference, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Melia is accused of fomenting violence during protests that erupted in Tbilisi in June 2019 after a Russian lawmaker addressed parliament from the speaker's seat, a controversial move in a country where ties with Moscow remain strained after a brief war in 2008. The rallies saw thousands of protesters clash with police who used tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowds.
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