A criminal court in the Maldives has issued arrest warrants for a cohort of senior opposition figures, including the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives Independent reports.
In addition to Nasheed, who had previously been jailed on terrorism charges, the court sought the arrest of Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, a former vice president of the Maldives under current President Adulla Yameen, and Akram Kamaldeen, a senior official with the Maldivian Democratic Party.
Together, the three lead what is known as the Maldives United Opposition–a consortium of Maldivian opposition parties and groups concerned about the small Indian Ocean island state’s democratic backslide under Yameen.
Nasheed, who received asylum in the United Kingdom after being jailed on a 13 year sentence, recently met secretly with members of the united opposition in Sri Lanka, drawing Yameen’s ire. Nasheed was allowed to leave prison on medical release.
Yameen, a half-brother of the country’s 30-year autocratic leader, has cracked down sharply on opposition figures and even those within his own government. Earlier this summer, his vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly attempting to assassinate Yameen.
News of Nasheed and other opposition figures meeting furtively in Sri Lanka, an Indian Ocean neighbor, and plotting the overthrow of the incumbent government will likely only inflame Yameen’s determination to crack down on the opposition.
Moreover, recently, Nasheed addressed part of the circumstances leading up to his forced resignation in 2012. Speaking to the New York Times, Nasheed discussed allegations of corruption against Yameen, partly over a $300 million oil sale to Myanmar, helping the country work around international sanctions at the time.
Nasheed argues that his attempt to investigate and recover missing money associated with that deal led to his fall from power and Yameen’s subsequent rise.
As the domestic politics of this small island nation continue to remain uncertain, larger powers, near and far, are watching closely.
India has supported Nasheed and called for the preservation of democracy in the Maldives, but has still kept on working with Yameen’s government. Delhi has long been wary of China seizing on political instability in Male to court a valuable strategic partner in the Indian Ocean.
Earlier this month, Mohamed Asim, the new foreign minister of the Maldives, visited India, conferring on security issues in the Indian Ocean with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
The Maldives is also a concern as a source for foreign fighters heading to Iraq and Syria to fight for the Islamic State, with approximately 50 to 100 Maldivian citizens (out of a population of approximately 340,000) having already traveled to the region.