Arrest warrant for former Maldives leader

Former president Mohamed Nasheed says "tomorrow I will be in jail", as international concern grows and unrest spreads.

    A Maldives court has issued an arrest warrant for the country's former president who quit earlier this week in what he says was a coup against his rule, according to his political party.

    An official for Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said a criminal court issued the warrant on Thursday, along with a warrant for the country's former defence minister.

    But the official said it was unclear what Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader was accused of.

    A police spokesperson told The Associated Press news agency that a warrant had been issued, but Abdullah Riaz, the islands' new police chief, said later that police were checking whether the warrant was constitutional. 

    Nasheed remained at his home but said he expected to be arrested and detained, Reuters reported.

    "The home minister has pledged (I will be) the first former president to spend all my life in jail," Nasheed said.

    "I hope the international community will take note of what is happening in the Maldives," adding that "the facts on the ground are that tomorrow I will be in jail".

    Clashes have mostly occurred on the capital island of Male since Nasheed resigned on Tuesday, but there were reports of unrest spreading to other islands within the Indian Ocean archipelago.

    On the southern island of Addu, home to the country's second largest city, about 300 soldiers and armed police were deployed after the city's mayor, Abdulla Sodiq, had earlier said that law and order had broken down.

    "They are on the streets now making arrests," Sodiq, a member of Nasheed's MDP, told the AFP news agency by phone.

    Al Jazeera's Steve Chao, reporting from Male on Thursday, said there had been unrest on at least seven islands.

    "We understand that in some cases police stations as well as courthouses have been torched and police officers have been sent fleeing off of these islands," our correspondent said.

    "In Addu [Atoll] city in the south, the stronghold of Nasheed's supporters, we understand that some of the police have actually changed sides and joined the side of Nasheed's supporters as well."

    Chao said some political parties were blaming Nasheed and his supporters for the violence.

    “They believe that Nasheed is trying to foment what they call an insurgency-style comeback and have urged him and his party to get back to their roots of democracy.”

    Nasheed's family arrived in Sri Lanka on Thursday afternoon, according to a government spokesperson in Colombo, AFP reported.

    US to send envoy

    International concern is growing over the situation in the Maldives, with human rights group Amnesty International saying on Thursday that security forces had attacked protesters who had taken to the streets to show support for Nasheed.

    Amnesty called on the new government, headed by Mohamed Waheed, the former vice president sworn in as Nasheed's successor, to investigate the attack and ensure freedom of expression.

    The United States on Wednesday said it intended to send an envoy to the Maldives.

    "We are urging the government and the political parties to work together to resolve this situation peacefully. And we're continuing to monitor the situation," Victoria Nuland, the US state department spokeswoman, told reporters.

    Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, would visit Male on Saturday, adding the visit to a previously scheduled tour of South Asia, she said.

    A spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon said the UN secretary-general had urged all Maldivians to refrain from violence. He said a UN mission, already due to visit the islands, would arrive there next week.

    The European Union also expressed "deep concern" over the situation.

    In a statement issued by the office of Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative on foreign affairs, a spokesperson said: "She calls on the authorities to guarantee the physical safety and the democratic rights of the people."

    Ministerial appointments

    Waheed, who says he will appoint a government of national unity, on Thursday appointed Mohamed Nazim, a retired soldier, as defence minister and lawyer Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as home minister.

    Although Waheed and his supporters deny that his predecessor was forced out of office, Nasheed told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that he was forced to step down, and would fight to return to office.

    In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times on Thursday, Nasheed, who won the archipelago's first free elections in 2008, said that dictatorships "don't always die when the dictator leaves office".

    Nasheed said Islamic extremists posed a danger to democracy, and said that supporters of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the country's long-time autocratic leader, branded "as apostates anyone who tried to defend the country's liberal Islamic traditions".

    "Let the Maldives be a lesson for aspiring democrats everywhere: the dictator can be removed in a day, but it can take years to stamp out the lingering remnants of his dictatorship," Nasheed wrote.

    The Maldives, a popular luxury holiday destination that is home to about 400,000 people, consists of nearly 1,200 scattered islands, many of which are uninhabited or home to a few hundred people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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