COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – The former president of the Maldives was arrested Tuesday on charges of abuse of power during his tenure, setting off violent protests in the capital which saw seven policemen hurt.
Police spokesman Hassan Hanif said Mohamed Nasheed was arrested at his home in Male, the capital, and will be produced in court on Wednesday. He said Nasheed failed to appear for a hearing and evaded two arrest warrants.
He said Nasheed’s supporters turned violent soon after the arrest, attacking police and burning a motorbike.
Ahmed Zahir, president of Maldives’ Journalists Association, said two reporters covering Nasheed’s arrest were beaten up.
“Assaulting my brother Ali Waheed will not help Nasheed escape justice,” President Mohammed Waheed Hassan tweeted after mobs tried to attack his brother.
Nasheed is charged with illegally ordering the arrest of a senior judge, a move that led to his fall from power in February 2012. Hassan, his vice president, replaced him. Nasheed says he was forced out at gunpoint in a coup, though a commission of inquiry dismissed that claim last year.
Nasheed says the charges against him are intended to keep him from trying to reclaim the presidency in elections set for September.
He avoided two arrest warrants last month by taking refuge at the Indian Embassy for 10 days. He was arrested in October, also for avoiding a court summons, but was released after being brought before a court.
The Maldivian Democratic Party, which Nasheed leads, said police did not produce a court warrant when they carried out the arrest. Party spokesman Abdul Gaffoor said Nasheed was being detained at a prison island and that the party was concerned about his safety.
Hassan “has proven that he can’t be trusted to hold a free and fair election despite his assurances to the international community,” Gaffoor said. The party was meeting Tuesday evening to decide its next step.
The U.S. Embassy in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, expressed concern and appealed for calm.
“We urge all sides to remain calm, reject the use of violence, and avoid rhetoric that could increase tensions. Former President Nasheed must be accorded due process under the law regarding his pending court cases,” the embassy said in a statement.
It also called on the government to hold fair elections in September in which all parties are able to field candidates of their choice.
Nasheed was elected president in the Indian Ocean archipelago’s first democratic elections in 2008, ending a 30-year autocracy. He resigned after weeks of public protests against the judge’s arrest and losing support from the military and police.
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