Arrests in Maldives after mass protest over ex-leader's detention

Arrests in Maldives after mass protest over ex-leader's detention
Maldives police arrest an opposition supporter during a protest rally to protest the detention of former President Mohamed Nasheed in Male on February 27, 2015.

MALE, Maldives - Maldives police said Saturday they arrested 31 supporters of former president Mohamed Nasheed during a mass rally in the honeymoon islands' capital to protest his detention on terror charges.

Police said the supporters were taken into custody late Friday after thousands took to the streets of Male over authorities' treatment of Nasheed, whose detention has sparked international condemnation.

"We arrested 31 people and four have been released," a police official told AFP, without giving further details.

The city was calm on Saturday after witnesses said police were seen clashing with demonstrators in several areas of Male during the protest, which Nasheed's opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said drew 10,000 people. Authorities gave no official estimate of the size of the crowds.

Proetesters were angered by news that Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader who stood down in 2012, had been given just three days to prepare his defence for his latest court appearance.

Nasheed's lawyers also said he had been denied access to his defence team as he was brought before the court Thursday on charges dating back to his sacking of one of the islands' top judges while he was president.

Supporters of the Jumhooree Party, a former ally of President Abdulla Yameen, also joined the opposition rally that marched through narrow streets to express solidarity with their one-time rival Nasheed.

Nasheed was arrested on Sunday and charged with terrorism over the detention of criminal court judge Abdullah Mohamed in 2012.

The United States and regional power India have voiced concern over the charges, which carry a jail sentence of more than 10 years, and the manner in which Nasheed was dragged roughly into court on Monday.

The dramatic arrest came amid mounting opposition to the government of president Yameen, whose spokesman on Tuesday denied that the move to prosecute Nasheed was politically motivated.

The opposition has held regular night-time rallies over the past year to protest what they call growing authoritarianism, which has damaged the atoll nation's image as a tourist paradise.

Nasheed resigned as the Maldives' leader in February 2012 after a mutiny by police and troops that followed weeks of protests over the arrest of the judge Mohamed on corruption allegations

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