Maldives ex-president arrested, to appear in court Wednesday

MALE Tue Mar 5, 2013 5:04am EST

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed (C) leaves the Indian High Commission in Male February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed (C) leaves the Indian High Commission in Male February 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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MALE (Reuters) - Police in the tropical Indian Ocean resort archipelago of the Maldives arrested former president Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday, 10 days after he left the Indian High Commission where he had taken refuge to avoid detention.

A court had ordered police to arrest Nasheed after he missed a February 10 court appearance in a case relating to accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule.

"We have received a court order to arrest him and produce to the court," Maldives police spokesman Hassan Haneef told Reuters.

"...We have him in police custody. He will be produced in court tomorrow."

Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected leader, left office last year in contested circumstances. He entered the Indian High Commission on February 13 and left 10 days later on the understanding that he would be able to conduct "peaceful political activity".

His supporters say he was ousted last February in a coup in the Maldives, a major tourist destination. They have clashed with police outside the diplomatic mission.

If Nasheed is found guilty in the case, he could be barred from standing in a presidential election on September 7. His party says the trial is an attempt to exclude him from the contest and has challenged the court's legitimacy.

Nasheed says he was forced from power at gunpoint after opposition protests and a police mutiny. A national commission last August said the toppling of his government was not a coup, but a transfer of power that followed the constitution, a ruling that triggered several days of demonstrations.

The Maldives held its first free elections in 2008. Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years and was accused by opponents and international human rights groups of running the country as a dictator.

(Reporting by J.J. Robinson in Male; Writing by Shihar Aneez in COLOMBO; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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