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Maldives ex-leader arrested after no-show in court

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 8:30 am •  Published: October 8, 2012

The party said last week that the Hulhumale court itself was created in violation of the constitution and therefore is illegal. It also said Nasheed may not get a fair trial.

The charge against Nasheed carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment or banishment to a remote island.

The United States urged all parties to respect the rule of law and the constitution.

"We urge all sides to remain calm, reject the use of violence and to avoid rhetoric that could increase tensions. It is our expectation that former President Nasheed be given every due process that the law allows," the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said in a statement.

Nasheed was a democracy activist and political prisoner before becoming president in the Maldives's first multiparty election in 2008.

He resigned as president in February after losing the support of the military and police during widespread protests triggered by the secret arrest of a senior judge.

He insisted that he was ousted in a coup and was forced to sign his resignation at gunpoint, but an inquiry commission concluded that he left office legally. He was charged in July with illegally ordering the judge's arrest.

Nasheed's party has said the case against him is aimed at preventing Nasheed from campaigning ahead of next year's elections.

But Abbas Riza, spokesman for current President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, last week rejected that allegation, saying the court order was "the usual practice, according to the country's law."

Nasheed's supporters have held frequent protests in recent months demanding early elections. Hassan has said he will hold elections in July 2013, the earliest time permitted by the constitution.

Maldives is an island nation of 300,000 people off southern India. Tourism is the main industry of the chain of nearly 1,200 islands blessed with sandy beaches and coral.