Maldives watchdog warns of deepening political crisis

 A political crisis in the Maldives will deepen unless parties hold emergency talks following the arrest of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges, an anti-corruption watchdog said Wednesday.

AFP| Last Updated: Feb 25, 2015, 15:33 PM IST

Colombo: A political crisis in the Maldives will deepen unless parties hold emergency talks following the arrest of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges, an anti-corruption watchdog said Wednesday.

The Maldivian branch of Transparency International also urged all sides to uphold the law ahead of a protest rally against Nasheed`s detention planned for Friday in the upmarket holiday destination`s capital Male.

"Transparency Maldives fears that if the rising political tensions are not resolved peacefully and within the constitutional remit, the political situation of the country may deteriorate further," the group said in a statement.

Nasheed, the country`s first democratically elected leader who was forced to step down three years ago, was denied bail on Monday after being arrested on what critics have labelled trumped-up charges.

Britain, the former colonial power, urged its citizens to remain vigilant and avoid large crowds ahead of the rally being organised by Nasheed`s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

"Previous demonstrations have led to violence and arrests," the British Foreign Office said in an updated travel advisory on Tuesday.

"Take care, remain vigilant, take appropriate security precautions and avoid large gatherings, protests and rallies."

The Maldives is a major tourist attraction, but political unrest has dented its image as a peaceful island paradise in recent years.

MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the planned protest was an attempt to press for Nasheed`s release and draw attention to the government`s crackdown on dissent.

"They were looking to arrest me a few hours before detaining president Nasheed," said Ghafoor, who has flown to Sri Lanka to avoid being arrested.

The United States and regional power India have voiced concern over the arrest of Nasheed who was forcibly dragged into court on Monday and denied legal access and medical treatment.

Nasheed is being prosecuted under anti-terror laws over his 2012 arrest of a judge accused of corruption when he was president. The arrest led to street protests which culminated in a police and military mutiny that forced Nasheed to resign in February 2012.

Charges against Nasheed were dropped on February 16, but he was re-prosecuted on Sunday amid growing opposition to the government of President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen`s spokesman on Tuesday denied the move was politically motivated, saying the matter was being handled "according to the law".