EU concerned on Maldives' rising political tension



Colombo: The European Union expressed concern about escalating political tension and violent protests in the Maldives on Friday after the former president was charged with illegally ordering a senior judge's arrest, which led to the leader's ouster earlier this year.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, is "convinced that continued political unrest, heavy-handed responses by security forces and charges filed against political leaders" will further deteriorate the Maldives' political climate, a statement from her spokesperson said.

Ashton appealed to all parties to avoid jeopardising the work of the Commission of National Inquiry, "including legal action against political leaders." The commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power in February.

Mohamed Nasheed resigned as president after he lost support over the judge's arrest, but he later insisted he was forced out in a coup. The judge's secret detention triggered weeks of unrest in the Indian Ocean archipelago known for expensive resorts.

The charge authorities filed Sunday against Nasheed says the judge's arrest did not follow procedure for arresting a top official. It carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment or banishment to a remote island.

His political party says they do not expect a fair trial, accusing the judiciary of being corrupt and influenced by the country's 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed was a pro-democracy political prisoner before becoming president in the Maldives' first multi party election in 2008.

His supporters have demonstrated more than a week demanding new elections and vow to continue their protests until they win. President Mohammed Waheed Hassan says he will hold elections in July 2013, the earliest time permitted by the constitution.

PTI