MALE, Maldives (AP) — Police in the Maldives on Friday arrested 30 people as thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital calling on President Yameen Abdul Gayoom to resign and demanding the release of a former president in police detention.
Protesters, including boatloads from the many outer atolls of this Indian Ocean archipelago nation, gathered in the capital island Male, chanting slogans accusing Gayoom's administration of violating the constitution and arresting opposition leaders on false charges.
The rally, one of the largest ever in the tiny capital, was peaceful until it was officially called off. However, some protesters who continued a sit-in near Gayoom's home clashed with unknown pro-government group trying to disrupt the protest.
Police said a number of people were arrested from both sides.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested this week for his alleged role in the arrest of a senior judge three years ago. He has been charged under the country's terrorism law, but his supporters say the allegations are politically motivated.
Government minister Mohamed Shareef said the protest was not as strong as the opposition claims and the government "can't be overthrown in the streets."
Nasheed became the country's first democratically elected president in 2008 after a 30-year autocratic rule by Gayoom's half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in February 2012 following weeks of public protests over the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Nasheed has denied ordering the arrest.
He lost the 2013 presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Maldives' transition to democracy has been difficult with the country's bureaucracy and judiciary still believed to be loyal to the Gayoom family.