Thousands rally against detention of Maldives ex-leader
Supporters of country’s former President Mohamed Nasheed march in capital Male calling for his release.
Thousands of supporters of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed have marched in the capital, Male, to protest against his detention on terror charges.
Protesters gathered in the island capital, chanting slogans accusing President Abdulla Yameen’s administration of violating the constitution and arresting opposition leaders on false charges.
Shauna Aminath, spokesperson of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, told Al Jazeera that at least 10,000 people gathered in the main streets of the capital, demanding Nasheed’s release.
People are calling for immediate resignation of the current president.
There was no official estimate on the exact strength of the protest march, but AFP news agency reported that the number was in the thousands. The president’s office could not be reached for comment.
“People are calling for immediate resignation of the current president, people are calling for the immediate release of the former president and all other politically motivated arrests,” Aminath said over phone.
“Protests have been peaceful so far. We have been out on the street for less than an hour and streets are completely full at the moment. These [protests] have been going on nightly basis for weeks now and they will go on until we find a solution and the former president is released.”
“Stop brutality,” said a placard carried by a Nasheed supporter wearing yellow, the colour of his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Others carried red and green Maldivian flags as they marched to a meeting venue while police in full riot gear deployed in the area.
“We are with you sir,” said a placard which had a photo of the 47-year-old Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader.
The rally, one of the largest ever in the tiny capital, was peaceful until it was officially called off.
Police have arrested 30 people during the protests, and those arrested include both opposition protesters and an unknown pro-government group that attempted to disrupt a sit-in at the end of the rally, AP news agency reported.
Nasheed’s lawyers said he had been denied access to his defence team as he was brought before the court on Thursday for charges which date back to his sacking of one of the islands’ top judges during his presidency.
Supporters of the Jumhooree Party, former ally of President Abdulla Yameen, also joined the opposition rally to express solidarity with their one-time rival Nasheed.
Nasheed was arrested on Sunday and charged with terrorism over the detention of criminal court judge Abdullah Mohamed in 2012, when he was still president.
Aminath told Al Jazeera that the charges were all politically motivated and manipulated, adding that the judges were not fit for such a case to begin with.
“The judges are extremely unqualified, one of the chief judges only completed fourth grade, we are sure that he will not go for a free and fair trial,” Aminath added.
The United States and regional power India have voiced concern over the charges, which carry a jail sentence of more than 10 years, and the manner in which Nasheed was dragged roughly into court on Monday and denied both legal access and medical treatment.