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Arrest warrant issued for former president of Maldives

February 9, 2012 |  8:46 am

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI -- A criminal court issued an arrest warrant Thursday for deposed Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed amid further threat of violence in the island nation after rioting a day earlier.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the charges against him were in the confusing and fast-evolving political crisis.

Newly instated President Mohammed Waheed Hassan also moved to assemble a cabinet, naming Mohamed Nazim as defense minister and Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as home minister. Both men have had past differences with Nasheed.

Nasheed, 44, spent much of Thursday with reporters and allies at his house as several hundred supporters nearby formed a protective cordon under umbrellas in the inclement weather. Local media reports said Nasheed had sent his family to Sri Lanka as he awaited arrest.

Government officials and local reporters said a warrant was also issued Thursday for former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu.

Ahmed said in a telephone interview that violent protests on Wednesday by Nasheed supporters -– during which he said shops, courts, police stations and at least 17 police vehicles were destroyed -- were “clearly an act of terrorism.”

Ahmed added that he didn’t believe the warrant for Nasheed was issued on terrorism charges but was rather related to a police investigation into his firing of a judge in mid-January, a move that triggered waves of protest against his rule and led to his replacement as president early this week.

“The situation is very tense,” he added. “We’re trying to restore order. In the capital the situation is under control, but in the outer islands, as with all countries, there are limited resources.”

Nasheed allies counter that democracy has been subverted in the Indian Ocean nation at a time when its roots are young and fragile.

Nasheed was elected in 2008 amid great promise after three decades of rule by autocrat leader Abdul Gayoom. But he ran into trouble with police and parts of the army in mid-January when he dismissed the nation’s top criminal court judge, accusing him of subverting Nasheed's rule and maintaining close ties to Gayoom.

The crisis hit the international spotlight Tuesday when Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, announced his resignation for the good of the country. On Wednesday, however, the former human rights activist shifted gears, saying he was forced to resign at gunpoint in a de facto coup d’état.

Nasheed has told supporters and the media that he won’t seek an immediate reinstatement but believes Hassan should step down and call for elections to settle the issue democratically.

Hassan has denied there was a coup and has called for a unity government.

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-- Mark Magnier

Tanvi Sharma in The Times' New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.

Video: Protesters linked to the same party as the former president of the Maldives clash with police in the Indian Ocean nation. Credit: Freedom Watch Maldive

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