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article imageEx-Maldives leader's arrest sparks international concern

By Mohamed Visham (AFP)     Feb 23, 2015 in World

The United States and regional power India have voiced concern after former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed was forcibly dragged into court to face terrorism charges and denied legal access and medical treatment.

Nasheed, who was ousted three years ago, was denied bail at a brief hearing on Monday after being arrested on what critics have labelled trumped-up charges.

The dramatic arrest came amid growing opposition to the government of President Abdulla Yameen, whose spokesman on Tuesday denied that the move was politically motivated.

"Everything is (happening) according to the law," spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali told AFP, rejecting international criticism over the handling of the case.

Graphic on the Maldives where former president Mohamed Nasheed was hauled into court on February 23 ...
Graphic on the Maldives where former president Mohamed Nasheed was hauled into court on February 23, 2015, to face terrorism charges
, AFP Graphic

"This is an internal matter for the Maldives. We are an independent country since 1965."

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party has said that what it called the "trumped-up charges of terrorism" are aimed at cracking down on the opposition before a planned protest rally on Friday.

The Maldives is a major tourist attraction, but political unrest has dented its image as a peaceful island paradise in recent years.

Ali's comments came after regional power India expressed concern over the "arrest and manhandling" of the country's first democratically elected leader.

India's foreign ministry said both sides should "resolve their differences within the constitutional and legal framework of Maldives".

Maldivian riot policemen are watched by media representatives as they argue with a supporter of form...
Maldivian riot policemen are watched by media representatives as they argue with a supporter of former President Mohamed Nasheed on a street in Male on February 23, 2015
Adam Sereii, AFP

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal also voiced concern at Nasheed's arrest when she spoke to the Maldivian foreign minister at the weekend, a State Department spokeswoman said.

"She (Biswal) urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in... their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the right to peaceful protest and respect for due process," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Commonwealth has also expressed concern, while Canada's Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson said the allegation of terrorism was "politically charged" and "abhorrent".

- Taken to prison island -

Police hauled the former leader into the court in the capital Male on Monday, ignoring his plea to be allowed to walk in himself.

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom  pictured during a visit to New Delhi  India  on Janu...
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, pictured during a visit to New Delhi, India, on January 2, 2014
Raveendran, AFP/File

Nasheed told the court that his arm hurt after police violently pushed him to the ground, but the three-judge bench brushed aside his complaints, only asking police to grant him "necessary treatment" after the hearing.

Nasheed was later seen being taken away by boat to the nearby prison islet of Dhoonidhoo. His shirt buttons were missing and he looked to be in pain throughout the hearing.

The charges, which carry a penalty of more than 10 years in prison, relate to the January 2012 arrest of then-criminal court chief judge Abdullah Mohamed, when Nasheed was still president.

Since stepping down, Nasheed has been plagued with court action over the 2012 saga, with the most recent arrest coming just days after the state prosecutor dropped charges of abuse of power against him.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs  Nisha Desai Biswal  speaks duri...
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Desai Biswal, speaks during a press conference in Bishkek, on April 3, 2014
Vyacheslav Oseledko, AFP/File

Moosa Ali Jaleel, who was head of armed forces under Nasheed and is now the defence minister, and three others have also been charged.

However, the president's spokesman Ali said Jaleel would remain part of the cabinet since he and the other accused were considered innocent until proved guilty.

Nasheed resigned as the Maldives' leader in February 2012 after a mutiny by police and troops that followed weeks of protests over the arrest of the criminal court judge Mohamed on corruption allegations.

Yameen came to power in November 2013 after an election that Nasheed initially led before losing in a controversial run-off.

The next presidential election is not due until late 2018, but the opposition has been staging regular anti-government demonstrations in Male.

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