Male, Feb 9: The ex-president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, who claims he was forced from office in a coup, said he expected to be arrested today as protests and violence escalated in the holiday paradise.
Nasheed, the Indian Ocean country's first democratically elected president, told AFP at his family home in the capital that a court order had been issued for his detention and he anticipated being sent to jail.
“They have issued a warrant to arrest me now and said that I will be the first former president to spend the rest of his life in jail,” he said. “I hope the international community will take note and do something right now.”
While a nervous group of family members and loyalists awaited the arrival of officers, elsewhere in the country the police and army were struggling to take control after a night described by a presidential aide as “anarchy.”
Maldives police commissioner Abdulla Riyas said 18 police stations had been attacked on outlying islands in the archipelago, while numerous court and government buildings had been looted and torched.
“What happened is utterly disgraceful and it is the saddest day in the modern history of Maldives,” newly appointed Home Minister Mohammed Jamil Ahmed told AFP.
The images of rioting are potentially devastating for a country which depends on tourism thanks to its crystal-clear turquoise waters, coral-fringed beaches and ultra-luxury resorts.
The violence began yesterday when thousands of Nasheed supporters massed in the capital Male following his resignation the day before.
After small skirmishes, in which stones were thrown at police, officers then attacked the demonstrators with batons and beat a number of senior figures of Nasheed's party, several of whom were hospitalised. Nasheed himself was beaten and briefly detained.