Police in the Maldives detained opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday, defying pressure from regional power India which had called for him to be free to campaign for elections.
"A large number of policemen arrested him in (the capital) Male a short while ago," spokesman Shauna Aminath told AFP by telephone.
The Maldivian government said the 45-year-old, the country's first democratically elected president, was "taken into custody" on a court order and would be taken before a judge in a couple of days.
"He is not under arrest, but he has been taken into custody on a court order issued after he repeatedly evaded summons to appear in court," President Mohamed Waheed's media secretary Masood Imad told AFP by telephone.
He said Nasheed would be held in police custody until Thursday when he would be taken to a local magistrates' court where he faces charges of abusing his power after his election in 2008.
The move threatens to bring more instability to the archipelago, a famous upmarket honeymoon destination which sits astride strategic shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.
It has been wracked by violence and political infighting since February 2012 when Nasheed was ousted following a mutiny by security forces and demonstrations which he believes were fomented by former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The current government and Gayoom deny the accusations.
Seeking to avoid arrest, Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission last month for 10 days and walked out only after an informal agreement was brokered by New Delhi under which he would be free to campaign.
Presidential elections are due in September.
A conviction would bar him from holding office and his party considers the charges against him -- of abusing his power by ordering the arrest of a judge -- to be politically motivated.
"The last time there was a summons asking him to turn up in court, he went to the Indian High Commission and subverted our legal system," Imad said.
The Maldivian government denied any deal had been reached to end Nasheed's refuge in the Indian embassy, but diplomatic sources say India sought assurances to bring an end to the stand-off.