Nasheed faces arrest warrant in Maldives

Feb. 14, 2013 at 1:14 AM
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MALE, Maldives, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, facing an arrest warrant, walked into the Indian Embassy but may be free for now.

Nasheed, who in 2008 became the Indian Ocean island nation's first democratically elected president following three decades of autocratic rule before losing power in February of last year, entered the Indian Embassy in the capital Male Wednesday when faced with the arrest warrant, various reports said with some saying he took refuge there.

India's Hindu newspaper quoted New Delhi as saying Nasheed had sought "India's assistance," but did not comment on his Maldivian Democratic Party claim that he was granted refuge on the premises.

The newspaper said Indian Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay returned to Male after being out of the country and held talks late into the night with the Maldivian government to resolve the situation.

However, Indian television channel NDTV, quoting a Maldivian spokesman, said Nasheed will not be arrested for now as the warrant had expired Wednesday. The spokesman said Nasheed will remain free until a next hearing date for him is set.

The BBC reported police had been deployed near the building, as dozens of supporters protested the charges against Nasheed.

The arrest warrant was issued after a court held Nasheed had failed to be present for a hearing on charges of illegally detaining a judge during his time in office. Nasheed says the judge had sought to obstruct investigations of those linked to a previous government.

India, a close neighbor, has extensive contacts with Maldives. The United States and Britain also keep an eye on developments in the island nation with a population of about 350,000 because of its strategic location along major sea lanes and concerns about reports of radicalization of some of its predominantly Muslim population.

Nasheed stepped down in February 2012 after what he claimed was a coup orchestrated by former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The new government denies his claim.

On Wednesday, Nasheed issued a statement asking current President Mohamed Waheed to step down to enable the speaker to form a transition government, NDTV reported.

Eva Abdulla, a lawmaker and a relative of Nasheed, told the BBC the trial against the former president was designed to stop him from taking part in elections set for later this year.

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