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Unrest erupts after ex-president arrested in Maldives

March 05, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, center, is surrounded by police after his arrest in Male, capital of the Maldives.
Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, center, is surrounded by… (AFP/Getty Images )

Unrest erupted Tuesday in the Maldives after its former president was arrested, the latest turn in a disputed case that his backers say is meant to stop him from campaigning for reelection.

Police said Mohamed Nasheed was taken into custody Tuesday on charges of illegally arresting a chief judge during his presidency and that a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. Nasheed had holed up last month in the Indian Embassy to avoid arrest, spending a week and a half in the building before leaving.

His sacking of the judge led to weeks of turmoil before Nasheed stepped down, ending his term as the Maldives' first democratically elected president. Nasheed and his supporters said he was forced to resign amid an armed coup engineered by forces loyal to the country's former autocracy. A national commission rejected that claim in August, spurring more protests in the divided nation.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party decried his arrest as “politically motivated” and said police had not produced an arrest warrant.

President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, “in collusion with his friends in the judiciary, is pulling out all the stops to prevent President Nasheed competing in the elections,” the party said in a statement Tuesday.

Unrest and clashes were reported around Male, the capital, in the aftermath of the arrest. Police said supporters of the former president attacked officers, citing multiple “acts of hostility” in a statement. Dozens of angry demonstrators pulled the brother of the new president off his motorcycle before others rescued him, Minivan News reported.

“Assaulting my brother Ali Waheed will not help Nasheed escape justice,” the president said on Twitter.

The Indian government, which held a series of meetings with Maldivian officials last month after Nasheed sought refuge in its embassy, urged both sides to “exercise caution and restraint and not to resort to any violence.” It said it was closely monitoring the situation in its smaller neighbor.

Nasheed “must be accorded due process under the law,” the United States said in a statement released Tuesday by its embassy in Sri Lanka, and “all parties participating in these elections should be able to put forward the candidate of their choice.” The voting is scheduled for September.

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