Nasheed takes sanctuary at Indian High Commission

Male, Feb 13 (IANS) Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who once held a cabinet meeting under water to highlight global warming, took refuge at the Indian High Commission here Tuesday after a court issued an arrest order for his failing to attend a hearing in the illegal detention of a judge.

"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, 45.

A large number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters gathered on hearing the news, reported sun.mv, an online news portal in Maldives.

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 Nasheed 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.

According to some reports, there is a large police presence in the front of the Indian High Commission as well as the Traders' Hotel opposite the mission that was cordoned off.

A sense of uncertainty has gripped the Maldives ever since Nasheed resigned Feb 7 last year followed what he alleged was a coup. Mohammed Waheed Hassan succeeded him.

Nasheed faced protests over his decision to sack Abdulla Mohamed.

He later claimed that he was forced to quit at gun-point and urged the international community to help restore "democracy" in the South Asian archipelago.

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 produce him.

However, 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.

"The MDP calls on the international community to remain vigilant and immediately intervene to ensure a free and fair trial for Nasheed," his party said Wednesday.

The MDP 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.

WikiLeaks said Twitter that Nasheed has "done a Julian Assange".

"Former President Nasheed of the Maldives has 'done a Julian Assange' and taken shelter inside the Indian High Commission in the Maldives," tweeted WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange sought refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London in June 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces rape allegations.

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