Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, who defied an island-confining arrest issued by a magistrate, was arrested on Monday morning from a southern island, where he was conducting a mass contact programme.

Life has come a full circle for the Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience in hardly half a decade: he was among the longest-serving political prisoners released ahead of the 2008 elections. He won the first-ever democratically held presidential elections with the help of a combined opposition. Less than four years hence, he was out of office, and back under the custody of the Maldivian National Defence Forces (MNDF), to stand trial for the “unlawful” arrest of a judge during his last days in power.

Speaking to The Hindu from the southern island of Fares-Maathoda, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson for international affairs, said that masked personnel of the MNDF descended on island early on Monday morning, and arrested the former president. “They just dragged him away to their mother boat. They came in about 5 boats to the island,” he said.

He and his party leadership were in urgent consultations over the next steps to the adopted. “We are proceeding towards Male. We have to decide on our next steps soon,” he added.

Just early on Monday morning, the party that Mr. Nasheed belongs to, the MDP, said that it was “deeply disturbed and worried by the court warrant issued to arrest the party’s presidential candidate and the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, and produce him to a widely disputed court.”

“The court order was issued by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on October 7, while Mr. Nasheed had appealed the legality of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court with the High Court on Sunday and the appeal process has not yet been exhausted,” the party said.

The MDP urged the international community, and Maldivian development partners to immediately engage in dialogue with President Waheed Hassan to maintain “maximum restraint” and to not do anything that would disrupt peace and stability of the country.

“We are currently on presidential campaign trail by boats in the southern atolls. This trip has been organised for months and immediately after the dates of the trip were announced, the courts decided to summon our candidate to a court that is unlawfully established. Leading experts and lawyers have questioned the legitimacy of this court” said Mr. Hamid said.

“This is not about justice. This is a politically motivated trial to invalidate our candidate’s candidacy and to deliberately disrupt the MDP’s presidential campaign. We are in the largest voting centres and it is very clear who will win the elections. They can only win the elections by invalidating his candidacy. We are deeply disturbed by the developing situation. We do not believe he will have a fair trial,” he added.

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