Skip to main content

Former Maldives president arrested while campaigning

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 8:42 PM EDT, Mon October 8, 2012
Police in the Maldives arrested the former president Mohamed Nasheed (pictured) on Monday.
Police in the Maldives arrested the former president Mohamed Nasheed (pictured) on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A court has issued an arrest warrant for ex-president Mohamed Nasheed
  • Police arrest him while he campaigns for upcoming elections
  • Nasheed and his supporters say he was forced from power in a coup in February
  • But the authorities want him to stand trial over allegations of abuse of power

New Delhi (CNN) -- Police in the Maldives arrested the Indian Ocean nation's former president Mohamed Nasheed on Monday after he didn't show up for a trial over accusations against him of abuse of power.

His arrest is the latest twist in the political turmoil this year that has shaken the Maldives, a popular tourist destination consisting of hundreds of coral islands south of India.

Read more: The Maldives - Trouble in paradise

The authorities took Nasheed into custody at around 9:45 a.m. local time while he was campaigning on a remote island of the archipelago for upcoming presidential elections, according to police and the former president's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

"We believe Nasheed's arrest is politically motivated, aimed solely at preventing him from campaigning ahead of the presidential elections," Ahmed Naseem, who served as foreign minister under Nasheed, said in a statement on the party's website.

The Island President
Ousted Maldives president speaks out
Maldives president 'forced to resign'

Nasheed, the predominantly Muslim nation's first democratically elected president, resigned in February amid a police revolt prompted by his arrest of a top criminal court judge.

Read more: Maldives tense after day of street violence

The former president and his supporters say he was forced from office at gunpoint in a coup orchestrated by his political opponents. But his successor and former vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, insists the transfer of power was legitimate.

The Maldives Police Service say the trial at the Hulhumale Court relates to Nasheed's arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed earlier this year. The court issued the arrest warrant Sunday to ensure Nasheed attends the next hearing of the case, police said.

Read more: Maldives' deposed president faces arrest as wife flees to Sri Lanka

Nasheed said last week that he hadn't received a court summons requiring him to attend the next hearing. He said he had written to the court to request that the hearing be rescheduled until after his planned return to the capital, Male, on Oct. 13.

But the authorities were unwilling to wait and arrested Nasheed on the southern island of Fares-Maathoda on Monday. Photos made available by the MDP showed him surrounded by more than a dozen police officers wearing helmets and body armor.

Naseem, the former foreign minister, accused the police of using "disproportionate force" to arrest Nasheed.

"They landed on this tiny island dressed in full SWAT gear and carrying weapons," he said. "They behaved aggressively, and sometimes violently, towards Nasheed's supporters."

Read more: Former Maldives president beaten, his party says

Nasheed and the MDP have questioned the legitimacy of the trial, saying that judges in the Maldives had been upset by the party's campaign for judicial reform.

"It is impossible for any MDP Member, let alone President Nasheed to get a fair trial here," Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a party spokesman, said last month.

Nasheed is already familiar with the Maldives' courts and prisons. Prior to becoming president, he was arrested as a journalist several times and held as a political prisoner.

Read more: Maldives president resigns after police revolt

He was a fierce critic of the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years before Nasheed defeated him in elections in 2008.

Nasheed accused Gayoom of running the country with an iron fist, crushing dissent, amassing wealth and stacking his administration with friends and relatives.

But Gayoom is still considered a hero by many in Maldives who credit him for transforming a fishing culture into a tourist nation.

CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh reported from New Delhi, and Jethro Mullen from Hong Kong.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT