Maldives issues arrest warrant for Mohamed Nasheed

Mohamed Nasheed: "If I leave the whole country will go to the dogs... I'm afraid I can't do that"

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Crowds of supporters have gathered at the house of the former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, as a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Mr Nasheed told the BBC that he was worried about his safety. Reports say that his wife and daughters have already fled to Sri Lanka.

Mr Nasheed resigned on Tuesday amid protests over his rule. He says he was forced to resign by security forces.

The authorities deny this, but protests turned violent on Wednesday.

Mr Nasheed was among dozens injured in the capita, Male, when riot police used tear gas against protesters as unrest intensified.

It is unclear what the charges against the former president might be. Senior officials in Mr Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) say there is also a warrant for the arrest of his former Defence Minister, Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu.

New President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik told the BBC that although a warrant is outstanding, he has ordered it not to be carried out unless it becomes necessary for Mr Nasheed's personal safety.

The Maldives

  • The Maldives is a chain of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean
  • Fewer than 200 of those islands are inhabited but with sandy beaches and coral, tourism is the Maldives' largest industry
  • It became a protectorate under the Dutch in the 17th Century and then the British in the 19th Century. It achieved full independence in 1965
  • President Mohamed Nasheed came to power after elections in 2008 ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
  • A former political prisoner and activist, President Nasheed highlighted the threat of global warming to the low-lying islands
  • But he has faced fierce political opposition, as parliament is dominated by opposition supporters of the former president
  • Tensions escalated last month after the army arrested a senior judge the government accused of political bias, prompting street protests

The UK's High Commissioner to the Maldives, John Rankin, has expressed his concern that no harm comes to Mr Nasheed.

"It would be a matter of serious concern for us and the international community if it did," Mr Rankin said.

Security forces have also been deployed to the Maldives' second-largest city of Addu, where there have been reports of more violence.

On Wednesday several thousand Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, led by Mr Nasheed, marched through the streets of the capital in protest at his ousting.

The violence spread to outlying islands, where there were reports that several police stations had been overrun by supporters of Mr Nasheed.

That night, police said on state television that the protests led by Mr Nasheed were "an act of terrorism".

But Amnesty International has issued a statement saying that Maldivian security forces attacked supporters of Mr Nasheed during the demonstrations and also failed to protect them from counter-demonstrators.

Coup claims

Mr Nasheed alleges that on Tuesday he was forced to resign "at gunpoint" by police and army officers in a coup.

He said the move was planned with the knowledge of Mr Hassan, his former vice president who has replaced him.

Mr Hassan denies the claims and says his aim now was to form a coalition to help restore stability ahead of fresh presidential elections due next year. The army also denies Mr Nasheed's version of events.

Tensions in the Maldives escalated weeks ago after the government ordered the arrest of a senior judge in the Maldives criminal court.

Protests over the arrest of the judge are widely seen as having hastened the downfall of Mr Nasheed. The judge was released soon after Mr Hassan took power.

Hours before Mr Nasheed's resignation, there had been a mutiny in police ranks which saw a few dozen officers side with protesters and then clash with soldiers in the streets.

The mutinying officers took control of the state broadcaster and began playing out messages in support of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an autocrat who ruled for more than 30 years.

Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner, defeated him in the country's first multi-party elections in 2008.

British, US and Australian diplomats have flown in from neighbouring Sri Lanka to provide consular assistance, if needed, to tourists holidaying in the Maldives.

Foreign governments are advising those visiting the islands to be careful. The archipelago receives nearly a million visitors a year - but most head straight to their resorts and never reach the capital.

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