Maldives ex-leader seeks refuge at Indian embassy

Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed said Wednesday he had taken refuge inside the Indian High Commission in his country's capital after a magistrate ordered his arrest.

The decision comes amid more political turbulence in the Indian Ocean holiday destination almost exactly a year since Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner, was ousted by violent demonstrations and a mutiny by security forces.

"Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives," Nasheed wrote on Twitter as armed police stood outside the diplomatic compound.

Nasheed went into the compound around midday and was likely to remain until a hearing in a higher court which could decide to quash the arrest warrant later on Wednesday, his party's spokeswoman Shauna Aminath told AFP.

"We have appealed against the arrest warrant and we expect a decision shortly," Aminath said when contacted by telephone. "He is inside the High Commission with some MPs" from his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

There was no immediate comment from the Indian authorities.

A magistrates court for the island of Hulhumale near the capital issued an arrest warrant on Monday after Nasheed failed to turn up for a hearing in his trial the previous day.

The former leader, a famed global warming activst, has been charged with abusing his power as president after he won the first free elections in the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2008.

Nasheed claims he was ousted in a coup orchestrated by former strongman ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which is denied by the current government headed by President Mohamed Waheed, formerly Nasheed's deputy.

An international investigation also concluded that the transfer of power did not amount to a coup.

"He has absconded the court proceedings and the court has ordered the police to present him before it by 04:00 pm (1100 GMT) today," Masood Imad, a spokesman for the presidency, told AFP.

"Maldivian police under no condition will enter the Indian High Commission and so it's a wait-and-watch situation for the police," he added.

Nasheed was briefly arrested in October last year at the start of the trial.