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, or embassy, 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.
Soon after Nasheed’s arrest, minor scuffles broke out in Male.
Supporters of the detained president threw the brother of the current president, Mohamed Waheed, off his motorcycle and attacked a parked military vehicle.
Some gathered outside the former president’s home and blocked nearby roads.
The U.S. embassy in nearby Sri Lanka called for calm in the Maldives and said Nasheed “must be accorded due process under the law regarding his pending court cases”.
If Nasheed is found guilty in the case, he could be barred from standing in a presidential election on September 7.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party denounced his detention as politically motivated, carried out by “numerous armed and masked police officers who did not...produce an arrest warrant or court summons”.
The party says any trial is part of efforts to exclude him from the contest and has challenged the court’s legitimacy.
A spokesman for President Waheed said no deal had been struck with the Indian government in connection with the former president’s decision to leave the high commission.
“There is no deal between us and the judiciary on Nasheed’s judgment,” said spokesman Imad Masood. “It is totally up to the judiciary. We will have no interference with court.”
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.
Writing by Shihar Aneez in COLOMBO; Editing by Ron Popeski