Ex-Maldivian president takes refuge in Indian mission (Fourth Lead)
Male, Feb 13 : Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, who once held a cabinet meeting under water to highlight dangers to island-nations from global warming, took refuge at the Indian High Commission here Wednesday after a court ordered his arrest.
The court issued the arrest order after the 45-year-old opposition leader belonging to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) failed to attend a hearing in the illegal detention of a judge last year.
"Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives," tweeted Maldivian opposition leader Nasheed.
Maldives Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdhul Gafoor said: "There is no point of his (Nasheed) being there (at the Indian High Commission)."
Gafoor told IANS over phone from Male that Nasheed "is there" at the Indian High Commission, while adding that there would be "no effort to take him out".
"Anyone can visit the Indian High Commission," Gafoor said and suggested that the Indian media may be indulging in unnecessary speculation over the turn of events in his country.
He said the situation in his island nation was "calm and stable" and very much "under control".
"Yeah, I think," said the senior minister when asked whether Male was in touch with New Delhi over this development.
The Maldives, an atoll nation, is known for its deep blue seas, turquoise reefs, white sandy beaches and palm trees. It comprises 1,190 islands - of which about 200 are inhabited - and has a population of 350,000.
Nasheed entered the Indian High Commission as the Hulhumal court issued an arrest order for him to be brought to court after he failed to attend the scheduled hearing over last year's detention of Criminal Court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan succeeded Nasheed who resigned Feb 7 last year followed by what he alleged was a coup.
Nasheed later claimed he was forced to quit at gun-point and urged the international community, particularly India, to help restore "democracy" in the South Asian archipelago.
Nasheed's political party, the MDP, has strongly condemned the arrest warrant and reiterated its belief that the arrest warrant and the charges against him are politically motivated.
Gafoor said Wednesday's development is "not politically motivated". He said the judiciary, which was independent in his country, had in fact been lenient towards Nasheed and allowed him to travel despite grave charges against him.
There had been widespread violence before and after Nasheed stepped down as the president in February last year.
"It is nothing like that... Everything is under control," Gafoor told IANS when asked if the government feared violence after Nasheed walked into the Indian mission.
He said Nasheed should come out and face court hearing and let law of the land take its course.
A large number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters gathered on hearing the news, reported sun.mv, an online news portal in the Maldives.
According to some reports, there was a large police presence in front of the Indian High Commission as well as the Traders' Hotel opposite the mission that was cordoned off.
Presidential spokesperson Imad Masood told Xinhua that summons were issued after Nasheed defied a court order to be present in court and the court, in return, issued an order to the police to present him.
"The MDP calls on the international community to remain vigilant and immediately intervene to ensure a free and fair trial for Nasheed," Nasheed's political party," the MDP said Wednesday.
The party added that the second hearing of the case was scheduled Feb 10 while Nasheed was on a visit to India and was unable to return to Male due to a medical emergency.
However, Nasheed's lawyers had informed the court in writing, the party said.
Nasheed hit the world headlines four years ago when he held a cabinet meeting under water to highlight global warming and the threat to his atoll nation. He and his ministers were in full scuba gear as they met for about 30 minutes at a depth of six metres just north of the capital Male in 2009.