Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed took refuge at the Indian embassy in the capital Male Wednesday to avoid arrest, demanding the resignation of his successor and free and fair elections.
Nasheed, 45, issued a statement from the besieged Indian diplomatic mission saying that his current trial for abuse of power when he was in office was a "politically motivated sham".
He sought refuge at the compound as police tried to execute a court warrant and arrest him.
Nasheed said his deputy and successor, current president Mohamed Waheed, could not be expected to hold a free and fair election.
"Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office," Nasheed said. "An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete."
Nasheed's spokesman Mariya Didi said he would remain at the diplomatic compound until the crisis was resolved.
"We don't see a quick resolution to this," Didi said, adding that Nasheed and his party did not accept the legality of the court that is trying him for abuse of power when he was in office from 2008 to February last year.
The new crisis comes amid more political turbulence in the Indian Ocean holiday destination a year after Nasheed, a pro-democracy campaigner, was ousted by violent demonstrations and a mutiny by police and 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 a few hours after seeking the safety in the embassy building.
Armed police stood outside the diplomatic compound.
A local magistrate's court issued an arrest warrant for him on Monday after he failed to appear for a hearing at the weekend. A legal challenge to the arrest order in a higher court failed on Wednesday, his party said.
Nasheed has repeatedly claimed that his trial was a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from leading his Maldivian Democratic Party into polls in September. A conviction would disqualify him.
Masood Imad, a spokesman for President Waheed, confirmed to AFP that police were waiting to arrest Nasheed on court orders, but said they would not enter the diplomatic compound.
"Maldivian police under no condition will enter the Indian High Commission and so it's a wait-and-watch situation for the police," he said.
The Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi said it was "in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation" and called on Waheed's government to ensure fair elections.
"It is necessary that the presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance," said the statement.
"Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives."
Nasheed, a famed global warming activist, won the first free elections in the Maldives in 2008.
He claims he was ousted in a coup orchestrated by former strongman ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in alliance with the Islamist opposition. The current government denies the allegation.
An international investigation concluded that the transfer of power did not amount to a coup.
Nasheed, who was repeatedly detained and tortured during his days as a pro-democracy activist, was briefly arrested in October last year at the start of the trial.
If convicted of abusing his powers, he could be fined $130 and sentenced to three years in jail.