Mass arrests in Maldives after ‘free-Nasheed’ protests

Mass arrests in Maldives after ‘free-Nasheed’ protests
Supporters of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed at a protest in Male in February.

MALÉ, Maldives - Maldivian authorities have carried out mass arrests, including of opposition politicians, following a large anti-government protest demanding the release of jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed, officials and activists said Saturday.

The government said the overnight demonstrations turned violent and that several police were wounded in clashes with those loyal to Nasheed, who was jailed for 13 years last month.

"The organisers of the protest addressed the protesters and called on all gathered to topple the government and confront the police," the government said in a statement. It said arrests were made, but gave no figures.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said over 170 people had been detained by police since Friday night when an estimated 25,000 people took part in the protest march, the biggest since the jailing of Nasheed.

"The increasingly authoritarian regime of President Abdulla Yameen responded... with tear gas, baton charges, stun grenades and mass arrests," the MDP said in a statement.

Streets of the capital Male appeared to be calm on Saturday morning.

The Friday night protests that extended past midnight came as the United Nations criticised Maldivian authorities for jailing its former president after a "vastly unfair trail".

The latest UN censure came as international experts, including London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, petitioned the world body over the controversial jailing of Nasheed.

The UN Human Rights Office said their delegation, which visited Male late last month, found the country's first democratically elected leader had been subjected to a "rushed trial" under a system that was highly politicised.

"The trial of Mr Nasheed was vastly unfair and his conviction was arbitrary and disproportionate," the UN rights body said in a statement issued from Geneva. He was convicted on a charge of ordering the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge when he was in power in 2012.

It asked Yameen, the half-brother of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, to ensure the safety of Nasheed and allow freedom of expression in the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims.

The Indian Ocean atoll nation's image as an upmarket tourist destination has been dented due to almost daily protests in Male.

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