As Nasheed flees arrest, India shelters him in Malé mission

FP
Ahead of a hearing against him, former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed on Wednesday took refuge at the Indian high commission in Malé where, sources said, he will be given shelter for as long as he wants.

Even as New Delhi worked the phones with the Maldivian government to defuse the crisis, sources said India has decided to let Nasheed stay at the high commission.

New Delhi has also made it clear to Malé that the legitimacy of the elections in the Maldives — due in August-September — would be under a cloud should Nasheed not be able to contest. India asked the Maldivian government and political parties to avoid any action that would "vitiate the political atmosphere".

Nasheed walked into the Indian high commission in the afternoon, just before a court hearing on the detention of the chief judge of the criminal court by his regime in January 2012. An arrest warrant had been issued on Tuesday night against the former president for not turning up for a previous hearing.

"Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives," tweeted Nasheed.

His close aide Abdul Ghafoor told The Indian Express over the phone from Male, "The Maldivian police is waiting outside the Indian High Commission like the British police guard the Ecuador Embassy where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is staying. They will grab him once he is out. We want India to help."

Nasheed had sought a meeting with Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay, who flew back to Maldives early morning today from Delhi.

Nasheed's lawyer Hassan Latheef told reporters in Bangalore that he would remain at the High Commission till the matter of his arrest was resolved. Nasheed is pushing India to broker a postponement of his trial as he is afraid he would be barred from contesting the elections, said Latheef, who was in Bangalore en route to Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that Nasheed had sought "India's assistance" following the arrest warrant. "We are in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation," said Syed Akbaruddin, MEA official spokesperson.

"It is necessary that the presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance. Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives," he said.

Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed's official spokesperson Imad Massod said that the security forces will not enter the Indian mission. "The police are waiting for him to come out. They will not enter the High Commission premises," he said.

— With Johnson T A, Bangalore

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