Mohamed Nasheed, the former Maldives president, has taken refuge inside the Indian embassy in the capital, Male, after a local magistrate ordered his arrest.
Nasheed, 45, issued a statement on Wednesday from the besieged Indian diplomatic mission saying that his current trial for abuse of power when he was in office was a “politically motivated sham”.
He sought refuge at the compound as police tried to execute a court warrant and arrest him.
Nasheed said his deputy and successor, current president Mohamed Waheed, could not be expected to hold a free and fair election.
“Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office,” Nasheed said.
“An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete.”
Nasheed’s spokesman Mariya Didi said he would remain at the diplomatic compound until the crisis was resolved.
“We don’t see a quick resolution to this,” Didi said, adding that Nasheed and his party did not accept the legality of the court that is trying him for abuse of power when he was in office from 2008 to February last year.
Masood Imad, a spokesman for president Waheed, confirmed to AFP news agency that police were waiting to arrest Nasheed on court orders, but said they would not enter the diplomatic compound.
“Maldivian police under no condition will enter the Indian High Commission and so it’s a wait-and-watch situation for the police,” he said.
The Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi said it was “in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation” and called on Waheed’s government to ensure fair elections.
“Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives,” it said in a statement.
Syed Akbaruddin, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman, said India has not decided whether to grant Nasheed refuge at the embassy.
A local magistrate’s court, where Nasheed is on trial for abusing his powers, issued an arrest warrant for him on Monday after he failed to appear for a hearing at the weekend.
A legal challenge to the arrest order in a higher court failed on Wednesday, his party said.
The court charged that he illegally ordered the detention of a senior judge, a move that led to his ouster from power last year.
The new crisis comes amid more political turbulence in the Indian Ocean island nation a year after Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner, was ousted by violent demonstrations and a mutiny by police and security forces.
“Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives,” Nasheed wrote on Twitter.
The former president’s supporters believe the trial is a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from leading his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) into upcoming polls.
A conviction would disqualify him from politics.
MDP spokeswoman Shauna Aminath warned of “a long stand off until his safety is assured”.
Nasheed, a famed global warming activist, won the first free elections in the Maldives in 2008. He claims he was ousted in a coup orchestrated by former strongman ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in alliance with the Islamist opposition.
The current government denies the allegation.
An international investigation concluded that the transfer of power did not amount to a coup.