Maldives court orders arrest of former president

MALE Sun Oct 7, 2012 6:41pm BST

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed announces his resignation in Male February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed announces his resignation in Male February 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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MALE (Reuters) - A Maldives court ordered the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday for ignoring a summons and a travel ban, a move that will add to political tensions in the island nation and could trigger more protests from his supporters.

Nasheed was removed from office in contested circumstances in February and his supporters have frequently taken to the streets in protest, leading to clashes with security forces in Male, the capital of the Indian Ocean atoll nation best known as a luxury tourism destination.

"We've received a court order to produce ex-president Nasheed on 9th October, 2012, at 1600 hours," said police spokesman Hassan Haneef, adding that the order included the power of arrest.

Nasheed rejects the authority of the country's lower courts, saying the case is intended to prevent him from running for office in elections to be held next year.

Nasheed says he was forced from power at gunpoint after opposition protests and a police mutiny. A national commission on August 31 said the toppling of his government was not a coup, a ruling that triggered several days of large demonstrations.

On September 26, a court ordered Nasheed to seek permission to leave Male before and during a trial on charges of abducting a judge during his final days in office.

If found guilty, Nasheed will face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a MVR 3,000 (112 pounds) fine, a sentence that would bar him from contesting future elections.

Last week the murder of lawmaker Afrasheem Ali added to the tense atmosphere. Ali was a critic of Nasheed, and police have arrested an associate of Nasheed's for the crime. The former president says the charges are politically motivated.

Nasheed shot to global prominence by highlighting the risks of rising sea levels to the low-lying archipelago.

He became its first democratically elected president by defeating Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an autocrat who was then Asia's longest-serving leader after 30 years in power.

(Reporting By J.J. Robinson; Writing by Shihar Aneez in COLOMBO; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Will Waterman)

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