By Shihar Aneez
MALE (Reuters) - Maldives security forces wielding batons late on Friday charged thousands of protesters led by former leader Mohamed Nasheed heading along a road leading to the presidential palace, badly injuring one.
More than 3,000 protesters, mostly youths, marched towards the palace along with Nasheed, demanding the government hold an early election and calling on President Mohamed Waheed to resign.
Backers of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were protesting for a second day against a report by a Commonwealth-backed commission that found a February 7 power transition in which the former leader resigned did not constitute a coup.
After stepping down, Nasheed, in power since 2008, said he had been forced to resign at gunpoint by mutinying police and soldiers.
The protest came after Nasheed said the report by the Commission of National Inquiry issued on Thursday had legitimized the toppling of his government.
"Now we have a situation, very awkward situation and in many ways very comical situation, where toppling a government by a brutal force is taken in as a reasonable cause of action," he told reporters.
Nasheed, who shot to global prominence by holding a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the risk rising sea-levels present to the low-lying archipelago, was the Maldives' first democratically elected president until his ouster in February.
The protesters were initially stopped by security forces including soldiers carrying riot shields some 30 meters (100 feet) from the presidential palace, but Nasheed's supporters tried to advance after removing roadblocks.
After a warning, security forces comprising mainly police tried to break up the protest with batons and pepper spray.
Officials from Nasheed's party said one protester was badly injured during the clash.
As the conflict continued into the early hours of Saturday, police cordoned off the area. They said they had arrested 11 protesters, but officials from Nasheed's MDP said the number was likely to be much greater.
President Mohamed Waheed, who had already left for an official visit to China, earlier told Reuters that he expected the protests to die down as the legitimacy of his government was established by the commission report.
Nasheed's resignation sparked rowdy protests by his supporters, some of whom complained of heavy-handed policing. The report said police brutality should be further investigated.
The Maldives, a sultanate in the Indian Ocean for almost nine centuries before becoming a British protectorate, held its first fully democratic elections in 2008. The island chain's economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an autocrat who was then Asia's longest-serving leader, having been in power for 30 years.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)