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Dozens more arrested in Maldives

From CNN Correspondent Kasra Naji

Maldives President Gayoom has appealed for calm.
Maldives President Gayoom has appealed for calm.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Authorities in the Maldives capital, Malé, have arrested dozens more people suspected of taking part in anti-government riots over the weekend in which at least three people were killed and 20 injured.

The arrests came as the human rights organization Amnesty International called on the government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to end what it called a "cycle of systematic repression" in the tiny Indian Ocean nation on a string of atolls 640 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka.

On Tuesday evening, authorities imposed a curfew for the fourth consecutive night. Residents reached by telephone said the situation has returned to normal although tension remains high.

The disturbances began Friday night when police opened fire on inmates during a riot in the country's notorious Maafushi prison. At least one inmate was killed.

On Saturday, protests by the family and friends of the dead inmate developed into bigger anti-government protests in which the protesters also attacked the parliament building with stones.

Angry crowds set fire to government cars and at least two police stations before they torched the country's election commission building. These were the worst anti-government disturbances in 15 years in the nation best known for its tourist paradise islands.

Sixth term

"The scale of civil protest in Malé last weekend and the targeting, by the protesters, of government buildings which are closely associated with endemic human rights violations underlines people's anger caused by the blatant abuse of their human rights," Amnesty International said in a written statement Tuesday.

"In response to the recent wave of protests, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom must take urgent measures to stop the systematic repression of peaceful political activists, and radically reform the criminal justice system to safeguard people's human rights," it said.

Gayoom has appealed for calm and has promised a presidential inquiry into the causes of the prison riots.

The disturbances came as the official media announced that Gayoom, already in power for 25 years, is running for a sixth term in next month's presidential elections.

"Endemic torture and unfair trials, abuse of power by the security personnel, and a lack of clear boundaries between the executive power and the judiciary are at the heart of the causes that sparked off the civil protest last weekend," Amnesty International said.


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