Maldives opposition set to regroup for 2nd night of protests

AP News
Posted: Nov 28, 2015 3:36 AM
Maldives opposition set to regroup for 2nd night of protests

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldives' opposition on Saturday vowed to regroup for a second night of demonstrations hours after police broke up a planned 72-hour protest demanding the release of the country's ex-president and other political leaders.

Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor said the party is within its legal rights to continue the protests because police have unilaterally withdrawn from agreed terms.

The party is demanding the release from jail of former President Mohamed Nasheed, ex-Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and opposition leader Sheik Imran Abdulla, as well as the withdrawal of court action against 1,700 political activists.

It says the actions against the leaders and activists are the result of a political vendetta by the current president, Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Police used shields and pepper spray to break up Friday night's protests as the demonstrators prepared for a street march. They also cut off electricity for the campaign site.

Gaffoor said that during an earlier discussion with the party, the police had agreed to allow a three-day protest as long as sound systems were not used after midnight. However, they withdrew their permission after the government interfered, he said.

Government officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison for ordering the arrest of a top judge when he was president in 2012. Nazim is serving a 10-year sentence for illegal possession of a pistol, and Abdulla has been detained for allegedly inciting violence at an anti-government protest in May.

The Maldives, known mainly for its pristine beaches and luxury island resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008, but recently democratic gains have been shrinking fast.

Nasheed, the Indian Ocean archipelago's first democratically elected president, resigned four years into his five-year term amid protests against his role in the arrest of the judge. Gayoom, a half-brother of the Maldives' former 30-year autocrat, defeated Nasheed in a disputed election in 2013.

The judiciary, police and the bureaucracy are deemed highly politicized and are accused of being used by Gayoom to crack down on the opposition.