Ex-Maldives Leader Arrested After Leaving Refuge, Office Says

The former president of the Maldives was arrested as he campaigned for an election scheduled for September, a move his office said was evidence the government is not committed to a free vote.

Mohamed Nasheed, who two weeks ago left the Indian High Commission in Male where he had sought refuge, was arrested at 1:45 p.m. local time today by armed police officers, according to a statement issued by his spokesman, Paul Roberts. There was no arrest warrant or court summons and he was taken to the Dhoonidhoo island detention center, according to the statement.

Calls to Masood Imad, a spokesman for President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi were not answered. Nasheed was detained on charges of abuse of power, the Associated Press reported, citing police.

Nasheed was ejected from office last year in controversial circumstances after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge. He alleges his ouster was politically motivated, in effect a coup. Nasheed was the first president of the Indian Ocean archipelago to be democratically elected. Waheed, his deputy, succeeded him.

“Nasheed was supposed to be on an election campaign trip but instead he is languishing in jail,” his office said. “Dr. Waheed has proven that he can’t be trusted to hold a free and fair election -- despite his assurances to the international community.”

Nasheed entered the Indian High Commission in the Maldives on Feb. 13 and left 10 days later. Nasheed left because he was under the impression that the government would not arrest him and would be free to campaign ahead of elections due in September, according to Roberts.

Nasheed, leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party, won the 2008 election, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 years in power. Gayoom became president in November 1978 and held office for six consecutive terms in elections in which he was the only candidate.

The Maldives, a group of 1,190 coral islands with a population of about 400,000 people, is located southwest of India.

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