Maldives in fresh state of unrest after former President Nasheed seeks refuge in Indian High Commission

2013-02-15 07:42:12 GMT2013-02-15 15:42:12(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Jamila Najmuddin

MALE, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) - The Maldives was in a fresh state of turmoil on Thursday following moves by the police to arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed after a case was filed against him.

In order to avoid arrest, Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in the Maldives on Wednesday and his action has elicited an angry response from the government.

An arrest warrant was issued on Nasheed by the Hulhumale Magistrates Court on Sunday for failing to appear in court on charges of allegedly kidnapping a Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 and keeping him in detention for over two weeks in an unknown location.

The MDP said that the second hearing of the case was scheduled while Nasheed was on an official visit to India and was unable to return to Male due to a medical emergency. The lawyers informed the court in writing as stated in the court's rules, the party said.

A top government official told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity that by allowing Nasheed inside the Indian High Commission premises, India has in effect interfered in the island- nation's judicial system.

"The judicial system in Maldives is not controlled by any party. It is completely independent. So when an arrest warrant is issued by court, why is India interfering by allowing Nasheed into its compound?" the government official said.

But Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said that Nasheed had sought refuge inside the Indian High Commission because there was an imminent threat to his life and that there was political conspiracy to prevent him from contesting the presidential elections in September.

Even by Thursday afternoon, Nasheed was still inside the High Commission premises and is expected to remain there until the Indian government mediates and works for a political arrangement that would allow Nasheed to contest in a free and fair election.

"We are asking the Indian government to mediate for an interim arrangement where a fair and honest election can be held. We also want protection for Nasheed as there are parties who are trying to kill him. We have received a favorable response from India," Gafoor said.

The MDP headed by Nasheed is also expected to seek assistance from the Sri Lankan government. MPD officials said they were confident that they would get a favorable response from Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Just minutes after Nasheed entered the premises of the Indian High Commission on Wednesday, he issued a statement on Twitter saying that he was forced to seek refuge in Commission compound because he was afraid of his life.

But the government insisted that there has never been a threat to Nasheed's life and that he was safe in the island nation.

"There is absolutely no threat on Nasheed. In fact the government has provided many bodyguards to him who are with him inside the Indian High Commission premises. The government has given him all the assistance that he needs," Presidential Spokesperson Imad Mashood said.

The MDP has released a statement calling for President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to step down and make an interim arrangement to oversee a fair, free and honest election.

"The events of the past year -- the mass arrests, police brutality, and politically motivated trials -- have all demonstrated that Dr. Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office. An interim, caretaker government should be created to oversee the holding of a genuinely free and fair election in which all candidates are free to compete," Nasheed said.

Mashood said that President Waheed would not resign, adding that the president had already announced that he was committed to a fair and honest election in September.

Although the MDP called on their supporters to take to the streets in protest, the government said that Nasheed's supporters had gathered in small numbers and had not created any tension.

However, the government is expecting a larger group to march on the streets on Friday but maintained that there would be no need for additional security measures.

The warrant for Nasheed's arrest technically ceased to exist by 4.00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and according to the government, a fresh warrant had to be issued by the court for Nasheed's arrest.

"Therefore right now, Nasheed is a free man until the court intervenes again and reissues a warrant for his arrest," Mashood said.

Nasheed has claimed that his ongoing trial is "a politically motivated sham" and that the Hulhumale Magistrates Court, which was created to hear his case, was illegal.

"The court was created with the sole purpose of disqualifying me in the upcoming presidential elections," Nasheed said, adding that he did not hope to be given a fair trial as long as Waheed still controls the government.

Meanwhile, both Waheed and Nasheed's parties are gearing up to contest the presidential polls in September and are expected to formally submit their nominees to the Elections Commissioner in April.

Nasheed stepped down as president in February last year after months of street protests by large groups. He has said he was forced out in a military coup, an allegations that the government has repeatedly denied.

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