MALE, Maldives (AP) — A court in the Maldives on Saturday ordered three opposition leaders and 172 of their supporters detained further after they were arrested for violence during a protest demanding the president to resign and freedom for a jailed ex-president.
With the court order the entire opposition leadership behind Friday's anti-government protests is detained.
Police announced they arrested nearly 200 people including the leaders and 187 of them were brought to court Saturday night. The remaining had been released by police themselves.
The court ordered that the three opposition leaders and 171 other protesters be detained for 15 days. One other protester was ordered to be detained for seven days. All of them are accused of inciting and engaging in violence against the state.
Court released 12 others because police did not produce them in court within 24 hours as required by law.
The detentions could exacerbate an acrimonious political climate in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation, which is still in its early years of democracy.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in the neighboring Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, said "there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives, where former President Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process. That is an injustice that must be addressed soon."
Police arrested Sheik Imran, leader of the Islamic conservative Adhaalath, or Justice Party; Ali Waheed, chairman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, and Ameen Ibrahim, deputy leader of Jumhooree, or the Republican Party.
Thousands of people marched in the capital on Friday, accusing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom of jailing his predecessor, Mohamed Nasheed, and others who he sees as political threats. The opposition activists ran through a cordon of shield-carrying police protecting the military headquarters in Male and clashed with officers.
Police fired tear gas and arrested 192 protesters. They later declared that the demonstration was not peaceful, saying they will break up any gathering without warning.
However, Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party said police charged the protesters without provocation. Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gafoor said the protesters did not enter the restricted zone but were only going to a mosque close to the area for evening prayers.
The protesters beat up two police officers who were flown to neighboring Sri Lanka for treatment.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March for ordering the arrest of a senior judge when he was president three years ago. He was sentenced under the country's terrorism laws after the court declared that the arrest was akin to kidnapping.
Nasheed's imprisonment after a rushed trial sparked widespread international condemnation.
Known for its luxury island resorts, the Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008, when Nasheed was elected president, ending the autocratic 30-year rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 after weeks of public protests against the arrest of the judge, who Nasheed's government had accused of being corrupt and politically biased.
In 2013, he lost a presidential election to the former leader's half-brother.
Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.