Maldives rally demands president’s resignation

Thousands protest in capital against Abdulla Yameen after former president arrested

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is dragged into the country's justice building having been arrested after a court said he might flee the country to avoid facing terrorism charges. Video: Zayn Inax/Reuters


Thousands came by boat to the capital of the Maldives to protest against the arrest of former president Mohamed Nasheed and demand that current leader Abdulla Yameen resign.

Tensions have escalated on the cluster of tropical islands off India’s southwestern tip since Mr Nasheed was arrested last weekend on charges of terrorism relating to the arrest of a judge which occurred during his presidential term.

Mr Nasheed, who was thrown to the ground as police dragged him to court on Monday, has said he was forced to resign at gunpoint over the judicial row in 2012. His allies say he was ousted in a coup.

Supporters of Mr Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party, which has broken away from Mr Yameen’s ruling coalition, converged by boat from across the nation of 1,190 islands after a call to rally in Malé.

A reporter at the scene estimated the crowd at between 8,000 and 10,000 people. The entire population of the Maldives is less than 400,000.

Protesters waved national flags and chanted a song whose words included a call to “stand in defence of the constitution”.

“The current government is illegitimate,” one protester told reporters.

Authorities played down the size of the demonstration. Mohamed Hussain Shareef, a minister in Mr Yameen’s office, said police had found rods, machetes and knives on protesters.

‘Show of strength’

Opposition sources told reporters the protest was intended as a show of strength before a parliamentary session on March 3rd, during which the anti-Yameen alliance will try to initiate a process leading to the president’s impeachment.

Mr Yameen (55), won a November 2013 presidential poll whose second round was cancelled when early results put Mr Nasheed ahead. Mr Nasheed, the first popularly elected president of the Maldives, eventually lost by a narrow margin and conceded defeat.

“A liberal and democratic constitution has fallen into the wrong hands,” MDP spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy told reporters, adding that Mr Yameen was taking the country into a “dark reign”.

“The people of the country will not let that happen. We will defend the constitution.”