State authorities in the Maldives arrested former president Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday after a court statement prompted concern that he might flee the country to avoid hearings on pending terrorism charges. Nasheed, who is now in opposition to the government, was forcibly dragged on the ground to the courthouse in the country’s capital, Malé. The spectacle over the former prime minister’s rough handling at the hands of the police led to protests and clashes between his supporters and supporters of the incumbent leader, President Abdulla Yameen. Last week, Nasheed had asked India to intervene politically in the Maldives amid concerns that Yameen would move to implement emergency rule.
According to The Guardian, Nasheed’s “shirt buttons were missing and he appeared in pain throughout the brief hearing.” Dramatic pictures and eyewitness videos released by press photographers and bystanders in Malé show the former president screaming on the ground, flanked by police on all sides. The judges presiding over Nasheed’s hearing asked the police to seek treatment following the hearing after initially dismissing the former prime minister’s concerns. Following his hearing, Nasheed was taken to a prison on Dhoonidhoo Island. Before being taken to the prison, Nasheed managed to speak to reporters on the scene: “I call on the Maldivian public to do everything necessary to stop the arrest and harassment of myself and other politicians to save the Maldives.”
On Monday, India expressed concern at the former president’s arrest, specifically mentioning Nasheed’s poor treatment at the hands of authorities as a point of concern. “We are concerned at recent developments in the Maldives including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,” noted Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson for the Indian external affairs ministry. “We urge all concerned to calm the situation and resolve their differences within the constitutional and legal framework of Maldives. India reiterates its commitment to supporting people and the Government of Maldives in their quest for peace, development, prosperity and democracy,” the statement added. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the Maldives in March.
Nasheed, who was the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, claimed to have been ousted in a coup. Mohammed Waheed, his vice president, denied the claims of a coup (after replacing Nasheed as president). Abdulla Yameen, the current president, was elected in 2013 and is related to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — the Maldives’ autocratic-leaning president from 1978 to 2008.
Members of the opposition in the Maldives claim that the Yameen government arrested Nasheed in a bid to splinter the growing opposition to the president. The Maldivian opposition, led by the Maldivian Democratic Party, recently gained the support for a former Yameen ally and resort tycoon Qasim Ibrahim.