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Thwarting Election Hopes, Ousted Maldives President and Climate Champion Mohamed Nasheed Arrested

Lauren McCauley

Mohamed Nasheed, former Maldives president and respected environment and human rights campaigner, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon for missing a previous court order, thwarting hopes of partaking in upcoming presidential elections.

Responding to a Maldivian court order to arrest Nasheed after he missed a February 10 court appearance, about 20 police wearing helmets and riot gear apprehended him in the capital city, Malé, according to reports.

"It happened at about 1:30 pm during a crucial vote in parliament. It took just 20 minutes. He was put in a car, taken to the jetty and away to the … prison," said Hamid Abdul Ghafour, a spokesman for Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic party.

The subject of the 2011 documentary film, The Island President, Nasheed received international acclaim for his role in warning of the dangers that rapid climate change posed to low-lying countries. Ahead of international climate talks in 2009, Nasheed famously held a government cabinet meeting under water to highlight the threat of rising sea levels.

Today, however, Nasheed is reportedly being held in Malé and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. The first democratically elected president faces accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule, before being forced out of power in what his supporters say was a coup d'état.

The local Maldivian news outlet, Minivan News, is providing ongoing coverage of events in Malé here.

Nasheed called the charges "a politically motivated sham" intended to disqualify him from running for office in the upcoming September election.

His arrest comes ten days after Nasheed departed the Indian Embassy, where he had recently taken refuge to avoid the arrest.

"The move threatens to bring more instability to the archipelago," AFP reports, which has been "wracked by violence and political infighting since February 2012 when Nasheed was ousted following a mutiny by security forces and demonstrations which he believes were fomented by former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom."

The Maldivian Democratic Party issued the following statement condemning Nasheed's arrest:

President Nasheed was arrested while walking down the street in Male’ at approximately 13:45 local time today. He was apprehended by numerous armed and masked police officers, who did not identify themselves, nor produce an arrest warrant or court summons. Nasheed’s lawyers were not informed of the arrest, or of any court summons.

President Nasheed was taken to Dhoonidhoo Island detention centre – the facility in which he was tortured during the former regime of Maumoon Gayoom.

Commenting on the arrest, the MDP’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said: “Once again 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 was supposed to be on an election campaign trip but instead he is languishing in jail.

“This arrest comes just days after the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said the judges overseeing President Nasheed’s case had been appointed “arbitrarily”.

“Dr Waheed, in collusion with his friends in the judiciary, is pulling out all the stops to prevent President Nasheed competing in the elections.”

The UN Special Rapporteur also said that the Judicial Services Commission, which established the court trying President Nasheed, was “politicised” and subject to “external influence”.

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